New Approaches may Uncover How the Brain Forms Decisions

Monday, 4 April, 2022


Dr Simon Kelly of the UCD School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Photo by Ste Murray

“Who’s that coming towards me? It looks like Maeve, doesn’t it? I’ll give her a wave. But hold on a second – I could have sworn that was Maeve.” That’s a common situation that most of us experience from time to time, and an example of a core brain function known as perceptual decision making. But what is actually going on in the brain and how can we get a better understanding of that? For two decades Associate Professor Simon Kelly has been preoccupied with these and related questions.

Working closely with psychologists, the electrical and electronic engineer has made important strides in improving how we can disentangle what is happening as the brain progresses from focussing on an initial stimulus, such as seeing a person in the distance, to recognising them as a friend and deciding to wave. He is now engaged in two projects, one funded by the Wellcome Trust and the other under Science Foundation Ireland’s US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme, which build on this important work and could have potential longerterm benefits in diagnostics, and possibly even therapeutics, related to psychiatric and neurological disorders.

“Working a lot with psychologists, I developed a love for the questions, the concepts and constructs of cognitive neuroscience”

You can read the full case study here: New Approaches may Uncover How the Brain Forms Decisions