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Nela Cicmil

Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Signal Integration for Perception

My research focuses on sensory perception and the neuronal mechanisms by which contextual factors influence perceptual experience. 

Visual Perceptual Decision-Making

How does context affect our perception of the world? I investigate this question using the visual system - in particular judgements about visual motion and binocular disparity - as a model of perceptual decision-making. My D.Phil. research focussed on how the brain integrates reward signals with visual information to generate the final perceptual experience. Using a range of methodological approaches, including electrical microstimulation, computational model-fitting, and magnetoencephalographic (MEG) brain imaging, I showed that reward signals can affect sensory representations in visual cortex during perceptual judgements. This implies that our subjective perceptions are affected by contextual factors at a very early stage during perceptual judgements. 

Current research projects include: investigating the mechanisms underlying social influences on visual perception; how the brain solves the stereo-correspondence problem to give binocular depth perception; and how information transfers between sensory and sensorimotor cortical areas during perceptual judgements.

Clinical Applications & Interdisciplinary Research

A disturbance in sensory perception is a key feature of a number of brain disorders. My medical studies at Magdalen College, Oxford, influenced my research into aberrant sensory perception of the body image in both health (tactile toe agnosia) and disease (eating disorders). I believe that an interdisciplinary approach, combining neuroscience with the medical humanities, is essential to the effective investigation and treatment of mental illnesses. As such, I am involved in an interdisciplinary research project and knowledge exchange programme investigating the links between fiction-reading and mental health (Books, Minds, and Bodies).

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Recent Publications

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In Michaelmas Term 2015 I will hold a seminar on Perceptual Decision-Making for FHS students in Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. I also offer undergraduate tutorials in sensory systems, sensorimotor integration and biology of brain disorders.