Members of the Brain and Mind Institute are pleased to welcome Dr. Ryan Stevenson as BMI's newest researcher in cognitive neuroscience. Ryan completed his PhD in Psychological and Brain Science at Indiana University, and post-doctoral positions at Vanderbilt University and the University of Toronto.
In his Sensory Perception Research lab, Ryan studies human visual and auditory systems, specifically focusing on how the brain integrates sensory information across multiple senses to form our perceptions of the world around us, and how these perceptual processes influence cognitive processes such as speech perception and communication. His research includes both basic research investigating the neural mechanisms underlying these processes as well as how changes in sensory perception in special populations, such as children Autism Spectrum Disorder, impact cognitive function. This research encompasses a wide range of methodologies, including neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI, EEG, and TMS, behavioural psychophysics, and clinical questionnaires and structured interviews.
Many of his recent projects have focused on temporal processing of auditory and visual stimuli from a developmental perspective. As they mature, children passively learn how to pair auditory and visual sensory inputs that from the same event in the environment, for example a talker’s voice and mouth movements. As this learning takes place, the brain is able to process these signals in a more efficient manner, improving perceptual and cognitive performance. Ryan is currently exploring the neural mechanisms that underlie this integrative process, and how the associated neural networks develop.
The second arm of his research focuses on instances of atypical sensory perception. His primary focus here is on children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with autism show distinct patterns of sensory processing, often contributing to the core symptoms of autism, including difficulties with social communication and repetitive behaviours, as well as other autism-related issues, such as increased levels of anxiety.
Ryan chose Western as his research home primarily because of the impressive quality of research conducted in cognitive neuroscience at the BMI. “The Brain and Mind Institute has put together a large team of people that can’t be rivaled in Canada,” said Dr. Stevenson. “The research community is incredibly collaborative and open. It’s a unique research environment.”
For more information on Dr. Stevenson’s research, visit ryanastevenson.wordpress.com.