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Our centre develops computer simulations of the neural and synaptic mechanisms underpinning various areas of brain function, including visual object recognition, spatial processing and navigation, motor function, language and consciousness.

Architecture of VisNet, a hierarchical neural network model of the primate ventral visual processing stream.
Architecture of VisNet, a hierarchical neural network model of the primate ventral visual processing stream.

The Oxford Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence is headed by Dr Simon Stringer. The Centre is based within the Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology.

Understanding the brain is one of the great scientific challenges of our time. However, the brain is an exemplar of what mathematicians call a complex system. The behaviour of such a system arises from the interactions between vast numbers of biological components such as neurons and synapses. Fundamental properties of the brain such as perception, intelligence and consciousness emerge from this sea of interacting elements. Therefore, in order to understand the workings of the brain, computer models are needed to investigate how individual neurons interact in the brain to give rise to the properties that experimental psychologists observe. These kinds of models are known as neural networks. Our Centre is developing neural network models of a wide range of processes in the brain.

The Centre houses a large team of theoreticians, who are developing neural network computer models of various aspects of brain function and machine intelligence. Research areas include:

  • Visual object recognition and processing of natural scenes;
  • Visually guided reaching;
  • Spatial cognition and navigation;
  • Memory and emotion;
  • Motor function and reinforcement learning;
  • Natural language acquisition;
  • Machine consciousness.

Much of our research is carried out by embedding neural network models of the brain into computer-generated 3D visual environments. This methodology allows us to explore, for example, how visually driven neurons may develop their known firing properties through sensory interaction with the world.

Our team

Related research themes