Meet the speakers

Maria Ruz

Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Center at the University of Granada, Spain.

Title of the talk:
Neurosexism: a sin of reverse inference

Maria Ruz is University Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience, Director of the Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Center (CIMCYC, and Principal Investigator of the Human Neuroscience Lab ( at the University of Granada in Spain. Her research is driven by a broad interest in understanding the neural mechanisms that shape cognition in the human brain, with a strong focus on neuroimaging. She is currently studying how the human brain codes information to prepare for upcoming challenges of different nature, and how this coding changes dynamically according to task goals or context.

Patrícia Figueiredo

Coordinator, Biomedical Engineering Lab (LaSEEB), Institute for Systems and Robotics – Lisboa (ISR-Lisboa); Associate Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa.

Title of the talk:
Searching for electrophysiological correlates of fMRI networks dynamics.

I am interested in imaging human brain function noninvasively, by exploiting the wonderful versatility and never-ending possibilities of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and by combining this with the highly complementary technique of electroencephalography (EEG) whenever appropriate. In one line of research, I seek to obtain more quantitative measures of brain function by evaluating the underlying cerebrovascular dynamics through the integration of multiple MRI techniques, including imaging of tissue perfusion, cerebrovascular reactivity, and blood oxygenation. Another line of research involves the combination of EEG with functional MRI, with the aim of assessing the spatial-temporal dynamics of brain networks. Overall, I expect that these developments will help elucidate the investigation of brain function, in healthy individuals as well as in patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, I hope to leverage the insights obtained from brain imaging to improve noninvasive neuromodulation techniques aimed at repairing brain function, particularly through neurofeedback training. Specifically, I have been focused on applications in the paroxysmal disorders of epilepsy and migraine, in cerebrovascular diseases associated with dementia, and also in schizophrenia and depression.

Melvyn Goodale

Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience and Interim Director of the new Western Institute for Neuroscience at the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Title of the talk:
Size constancy:  How our brain creates a stable world from the ever-changing images on our eyes.

Mel Goodale holds the Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, where he is Interim Director of the new Western Institute for Neuroscience. His early work, in which he demonstrated that the visual control of action is functionally independent of conscious visual perception, laid the foundation for the influential Two-Visual-Systems account of high-level vision. This account provides a convincing resolution to conflicting accounts of visual function that have characterized much of the work in the field for the last one hundred years. Over the last two decades, he has carried out neuropsychological, psychophysical, and neuroimaging research that has refined and extended the Two-Visual-Systems proposal. This account of the functional organization of vision and its underlying neural substrates has had an enormous influence in the life sciences and medicine, and is now part of almost every textbook in vision, cognitive neuroscience, and psychology. In addition, his ideas have also influenced researchers working in machine vision and robotic control, as well as philosophers interested in consciousness. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London (UK).  In 2016, he was appointed as an Ivey Fellow by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Bradford Mahon

Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

Title of the talk:
The role of the ventral and dorsal streams in action and perception.

My research is focused on understanding how object concepts are represented and organized in the human brain. We approach this broad issue through the lens of how object concepts are accessed from visual input, and how conceptual information guides access to object-associated actions and object names. In plain terms, if there is a cup on the table, how does the brain categorize the visual input as a ‘cup’, compute relevant volumetric and biomechanical constraints to allow the hand to ‘get to’ the right part of the object to grasp and manipulate it, and how does the system access the word form ‘cup’ from the visual percept and object concept? We test these questions through studies of individuals with acquired brain injuries caused by stroke or brain tumor. Studying patients with focal brain injuries and cognitive impairments allows causal tests about basic mechanisms and principles of neurocognitive organization. Ongoing projects study stroke patients with focal lesions to the ventral and dorsal visual processing pathways, and brain tumor patients undergoing awake language and motor mapping with direct electrical stimulation during brain surgery.

Adrian Owen

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging in the Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Title of the talk:
The Search For Consciousness: The Role of Neuroimaging.

Adrian M. Owen OBE, PhD is currently a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging in the Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He also directs the Brain, Mind, and Consciousness program funded by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and is on the Executive Committee of the CFREF funded initiative BrainsCAN at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Dr. Owen was previously the Assistant Director of the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at Western University.  His research combines structural and functional neuroimaging with neuropsychological studies of brain-injured patients and has been published in many of the world’s leading scientific journals, including Science, Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet.  Adrian Owen is best known for showing that functional neuroimaging can reveal conscious awareness in some patients who appear to be entirely vegetative and can even allow some of these individuals to communicate their thoughts and wishes to the outside world. These findings have attracted widespread media attention on TV, radio, in print and online and have been the subject of many TV and radio documentaries. Dr. Owen has played multiple editorial roles, including 9 years as Deputy Editor of The European Journal of Neuroscience. He has published over 360 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and a best-selling popular science book ‘Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death. Dr. Owen was recently awarded Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Honors List, 2019, for services to scientific research.

Kalanit Grill-Spector

Full Professor at the Department of Psychology, Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Stanford University, USA.

Title of the talk:
Human visual cortex as a window into the developing brain.

Recognizing faces and reading words, which are important for our everyday lives, significantly improve from childhood to adulthood. These abilities, and visual recognition more broadly, are achieved via a cortical processing stream that begins in primary visual cortex and culminates in high-level visual regions in ventral temporal cortex (VTC). How does VTC develop during childhood to enable improved visual recognition abilities? To address this question, we used functional MRI (fMRI), quantitative MRI (qMRI), and behavioral measurements to examine cortical development and its link to behavior. Longitudinal fMRI over a period up to 5 years in children between the ages of 5-17 reveal differential development across VTC. Surprisingly, as face- and word-selective regions expand and become more category-selective, limb-selective regions shrink and lose their preference for limbs, while other categories show little development. Distributed VTC responses show corresponding developments, which not only affect the informativeness of category information, but also predict improvements in face and word recognition abilities across childhood development. Finally, qMRI reveals that the VTC regions that functionally develop also undergo microstructural tissue proliferation, which is in part driven by myelination. These data not only show a striking interplay between functional and microstructural development of high-level visual cortex, but also show that cortical development does not always follow monotonic trajectories. I will end by discussing the implications of these finding on theories of cortical development and on understanding neurodevelopment delays and disorders during childhood.

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