My research aims to better understand subjective perceptual experience

As a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of California-Los Angeles, and as a visiting researcher at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute Interational (ATR) in Kyoto, Japan, my research focuses on using an array of techniques to better understand the neural and computational processes underlying how we perceive the world around us. To that end, I have conducted studies using behavior measures, psychophysics, computational modeling, machine learning, and neurophysiology. Over the last several years, my research interests have centered on a few main themes, described below.


Decoding Perceptual Confidence from Different Brain Areas

Which regions of the brain enable our capacity for confidence in our perceptions? In collaboration with Piercesare Grimaldi, Seong Hah Cho, Megan A.K. Peters, Hakwan Lau, and Michele A. Basso, I have been applying decoding algorithms to neural activity from different brain regions to better understand how this capacity emerges.

Investigating the Role of Prefrontal Cortex in Conscious Perception

Does the activity of prefrontal cortex (PFC) facilitate subjective perceptual experience? This interesting question has re-emerged in the literature in recent years, and holds promise to arbitrate among several theories about consciousness. Recently, together with Dr. Robert T. Knight and my post-doc advisor, Hakwan Lau, I published a debate piece, arguing that PFC activity plays a critical role in facilitating conscious experience.

Recently, I have launched experiments to probe this question empirically, and I will be presenting this work at conferences starting in late 2017, continuing through 2018.

Multisensory Integration: Insights from Computational Modeling

At any given moment, as we look out at our surrounding environment, we are bombarded by an array of sensory inforation from our eyes, ears, nose, and other sensory orgrans, and our brains must integrate this information to form a coherent whole. My published graduate work focused on applying this Bayesian modeling framework with these additional methods to use it as a tool to better understand certain principles underlying multisensory processing. For example, previous work using this model indicates that how we perceive our multisensory world is based on not only the reliability of unisensory encoding, but also upon a Bayesian prior which influences the tendency to integrate our senses (what we call the "binding tendency"). Part of my work aimed to answer questions about characteristics of this prior:


Other aspects of this work focused on how attention influences computational elements in this framework, and how to account for interesting biases that seem to be present in spatial localization data.

2017

2016

2015

Classroom Instruction

Over five years as a Ph.D. student at UCLA, I had the privilege of working as a teaching assistant, teaching fellow, and instructor for many courses in the psychology department. Working with such diverse, enthusiastic, capable students every day was one of the top highlights and joys of my graduate career. My didactic pursuits included the following classes:

Interdisciplinary Programs ("Cluster" Courses)

Moreover, during my final two years in the Ph.D. program, I had a chance to work in a new, year-long neuroscience cluster course for incoming freshmen students, which aimed to teach students about the human mind from historical, philosophical, and neuroscientific perspectives. All teaching fellows in this course held study sections, developed and administered neuroscientific laboratory exercises, and created assessments to test students on their critical thinking, quantitative, and reasoning skills in relation to course material.

Seminars

Finally, as part of my work in the Cluster Course, I developed a new seminar called, "Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Romance, Psychoactive Substances, and Music Change the Brain." Beyond the catchy name, though, the course focused on helping students develop a skeptical, critical eye for evaluating neuroscientific evidence for interesting mental phenomena, all while cultivating general skills through writing exercises, in-class debates, and discussions with experts on each topic. I tailored course material for students from different backgrounds and interests; a typical unit would begin by exposing students to ideas and anecdotal stories relevant for certain topics, such as content from the following:


After "warming up" with this content to cultivate interest and ideas, students then read scientific articles and heard talks by faculty and post-docs doing research in these areas to learn how knowledge is actually built from studies on these topics. Students also engaged in discussions with each speaker to ask for their opinions and insight on recent scientific papers, as well as how unanswered questions in each field could be addressed by new experiments. My syllabus for this seminar can be found here, and my reading list for the seminar can be found here.

Mentoring

During my time in two different labs at UCLA, I've been able to mentor 27 fantastic students and volunteers as they worked on various projects. It was (and is) amazing getting to work with such motivated, responsible, intelligent people on a daily basis. I'm proud to say that many of them are continuing to pursue academia or medicine after their undergraduate careers, including the following:

In addition to these former colleagues now in academia, it's been great seeing what other former lab volunteers have accomplished in industry and other areas outside the university setting. Many thanks to everyone listed below! The research we've done over the years would not have been possible without your contributions and hard work.

Finally, several lab volunteers are in the midst of finishing up their undergraduate careers. Best of luck wrapping up your studies!

You can find a current copy of my CV here.

You can find a link to my Google Scholar page here

You can also see my ResearchGate page here

Finally, the best way to contact me is by email: odegaard (dot) brian (at) gmail (dot) com