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Professor of Computing Science, University of Stirling

I am Research Co-ordinator for the Division of Computing Science and Mathematics, and a member of the Cognitive Computation (CogComp) Research Group here. My own primary interests are in early auditory processing, spike-based computing and the interconnection of real (cultured) neurons and electronics. I am co-ordinator of the UK Neuroinformatics Node which is the UK Node of the INCF and chair of the UKCRC Grand Challenge GC-5 Architecture of the Brain and Mind.

Jointly with Shih-Chii Liu, I am holding a special session of the IJCNN 2015 conference in Killarney, Eire (Ireland), 12-17 July 2015, on Sound and speech interpretation in real environments.

Currently Funded Research Projects

The Human Brain Project:
I'm on the edge of the Neurorobotics part of this enormous EU project.

Code analysis, repository, and modelling for e-Neuroscience. This is a major project funded by EPSRC, including 11 UK Universities, as well as a number of commercial and non-UK groups. It has resulted in a portal which can be used for Electrophysiology research. Originally funded by EPSRC, it is currently funded by BBSRC.

One aspect of this work is the development and testing of spike detection and sorting techniques, jointly with Dr Quian Quiroga at Leicester University. As part of this project we have a developed a set of MATLAB routines for generation of noisy spike trains. We are also very interested in ways of representing neurophysiology datasets, and have developed Neural Data Format (NDF). This work is closely related to the work of the International neuroinformatics Co-ordinating Forum (INCF).

Auditory processing:
One strand of this research aims to use the fine time structure of cochlear filtered sound to develop techniques for separating out different sources of sound. At one time we spun out a company (Stirling Hearing Systems) but this company has been wound up. We have designed a new type of MEMS/CMOS microphone, and very recently have had this project funded by EPSRC. The aim of the project is to develop and test this MEMS/CMOS microphone. We have a nice lab (but no picture yet!) with a MOTU828 mark 2 and G5 Mac for sound acquisition at up to 96KSamples/second, 8 channels, and we can generate sounds at the same time. And we can adjust the reverberance of the room as well. We have worked on a comparison between some spike based techniques for ITD estimation and some cross-correlations based techniques, where both are applied at the onseet of sound in a noisy reverberant environment. In addition, I'm interested in developing ideas of spike-based features which might be invariant under reverberation, detectable in noise, and composable to enable interpretation over time.

Research Areas:

Examination of the statistics of natural sound. This is really another strand of early auditory processing, but this time starting from the sound data itself. Such a bottom-up approach might lead to appropriate suggestions for the types of features that might be best, since they are actually present in the signal.

Biomedical interfacing: this is an extension of earlier work (see "Talking with Nerve Cells" below). In particular, I am interested in mechanisms for more direct detection of the behaviour of excitable cells. These alter their potential using the movement of ions, so interest is in stimulation using ions, and detection of ion movement. I've coined the term Ionophysiology (instead of electrophysiology, which uses electrons) to cover this area.

Artificial general intelligence: I am interested in what it is about neural systems that makes them different from (current) computer systems. Is there something basic about their operation that makes them different? Work in this area led to the EU FP7 funded Co-ordinating Action INBIOSA, and this in turn led to a book entitled Integral Biomathics. This built on earler work, including a seminar at Edinburgh University. I'm working up a paper for AGI 2012 (5th conference of Artificial general Intelligence). I did supervise a PhD (John McGeever) student in this general area some years ago: his thesis in online (postscript, PDF).
Neural Networks: I have worked on learning rules for NNs, principal components analysis using NNs, specification techniques for NNs, and temporal neural networks, particularly spiking networks.

Recently, I have been (re-)writing a spiking neural network simulator, in Objective C, to run on MacOSX. This now has its very own web page. I am hoping to use it to work on STDP and novel ideas on data representation in spiking neural networks (such as those introduced by Izhikevich).
Grand Challenges and The UK Common Vison Network: I have been involved with this for some time (since 2002). My particular submissions, on artificial sensing and content-based searching for digital media didn't make it to the final cut, but are, I reckon, still interesting. At least I'm still interested in them both! I am involved with two strands of the Common Vision project, namely uGC2 (Silicon meets Life) and uGC4 (Builing Brains: here's my presentation from a meeting at ISLI, Livingston, Sept26 2007)). The Common Vision website (also known as Grand Challenges in Microelectronic Design) contains further information.


  • –present
    Professor of Computing Science, University of Stirling