I have always been fascinated by the brain – how it gives rise to our perceptions, thoughts, emotions and behaviour. I therefore chose to study the cognitive neurosciences, which I did at University College Utrecht, a Liberal Arts and Sciences College that is part of the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands). Here, research projects with Prof. Astrid Kappers and Prof. Frans Verstraten sparked my interest in using perceptual processes to study cognition.
After a brief appointment as Junior Research Consultant at Intomart GfK, conducting consumer-related eye-tracking research, I moved to Oxford to enrol in the Wellcome Trust DPhil Programme in Neuroscience. Lab rotations gave me the opportunity to explore the cellular basis of sensory processing and plasticity in the lab of Prof. Colin Akerman, and to investigate potential ways of translating perceptual research into clinical practice in the lab of Prof. Chris Kennard and Dr. Stephen Hicks.
I went on to do my DPhil project in the lab of Prof. Akerman, where I investigated the influence of the visual environment on the early development of the visual system of the brain. Studying the plasticity of the brain at the cellular level, I described a previously unknown mechanism for individual neurons to become active contributors to information processing. Next, I returned to work with Prof. Kennard and Dr. Hicks, working on the development and experimental validation of a set of ‘smart glasses’ aimed to improve the independence of the visually impaired. This work ended with the successful spinoff of the company 'OxSight', which will make the smart glasses commercially available.
I have now renewed my work with Prof. Colin Akerman, investigating the development of the neural circuitry underlying perceptual processing.
Joram van Rheede
Postdoctoral Research Officer
As a Research Associate in the OcuLab at NDCN, I worked on the development and experimental validation of a set of 'smart' electronic glasses for the visually impaired. In most cases of visual impairment, even those that meet the criteria for legal blindness, a degree of residual vision remains. By using computer vision strategies to reduce the complex visual scene to its most basic, task-relevant elements, the smart glasses allow severely visually impaired people to get more information from their residual vision, and maintain a greater degree of independence.
Now the project has resulted in the successful spinoff of company OxSight that aims to commercially produce the smart glasses, I have returned to doing more basic neuroscience research in the lab of Prof. Colin Akerman, investigating the processes underlying the development of the circuits that underly sensory processing.
Diverse roles for the posteromedial thalamus in sensory-evoked cortical plasticity.
Buchan MJ. et al, (2021), J Neurophysiol, 125, 537 - 539
Embryonic progenitor pools generate diversity in fine-scale excitatory cortical subnetworks.
Ellender TJ. et al, (2019), Nat Commun, 10
Stimulus selectivity and brain state underlie sparse activity in mouse vibrissal cortex.
Buchan MJ. et al, (2019), J Physiol
Out-of-body experience in virtual reality induces acute dissociation
van Heugten-van der Kloet D. et al, (2018), Psychology of Consciousness: Theory Research, and Practice, 5, 346 - 357
Fine-scale excitatory cortical circuits reflect embryonic progenitor pools
Ellender T. et al, (2018), BioRXiv