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‘Unknown variability predicting responses of single neurons’, Winner of the Art of Neuroscience Competition 2017 Credit: Sean Cavanagh University College London, Joni Wallis University of California, Berkeley, Steven Kennerley University College London and Laurence Hunt University of Oxford

We are delighted to announce that Steve Kennerley, Professor of Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience, has now started in the Department. 

Steve’s research explores the brain mechanisms which support attention, memory, learning and decision-making. He has been especially interested in areas of the frontal cortex, in particular the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Changes in these brain areas, which occur during illness or over the course of aging, have been associated with changes in emotion, cognition and decision-making.

His lab’s philosophy has been that to understand behaviour in both health and disease, we must understand the anatomical networks and neural computations that support behaviour. To accomplish this, his lab uses a range of methodological approaches including electrophysiology (single neuron, local field potentials), human neuroimaging (fMRI, MEG), and biophysical and computational modelling. His lab tests causal links between these brain regions and behaviour by using reversible inactivation (pharmacological or stimulation) techniques.

Most recently Steve has been especially interested in how patterns of neural activity are linked to learning.  He has identified activity patterns in frontal cortex that are related to the seeking of new information in order to learn effectively.  The activity of neurons in ACC reflect the potential value of information linked to different objects in the environment even before properly looking at them. Such activity patterns may be what drives curiosity and effective exploration of the world around us.

Matthew Rushworth, Head of Department, said, “Steve has led pioneering work on how frontal cortex supports learning and decision-making and I am delighted that he is joining the department.  His presence will significantly strengthen and complement the core research activities of the Department and the wider community of researchers spanning departments in the Medical Sciences Division.”

Steve Kennerley said, “I am so excited to return to Oxford and the Department of Experimental Psychology. I look forward to building collaborations within the Department and across the Division.”