I am an assistant professor of neuroscience at Muhlenberg College, a liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, about an hour north of Philadelphia and two hours west of New York City.
My lab asks questions about the role of the brain in the production of behavior and cognition in human beings. We approach this topic from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience. That is, we study brain regions and systems (rather than, say, neurons or neurotransmitters). In doing so, we take an ecological approach, as originally developed by the psychologist J.J. Gibson.
More specifically, at the behavioral level we ask how action and perception affect each other, and how each affects and is affected by cognition. At the neural level, we ask whether during these processes the brain may be more fruitfully considered as a dynamic network of pluripotent (functionally diverse) neural resources, or rather as a network of (functionally specific) neural modules, as has traditionally been assumed. This latter aspect of our ‘ecological neuroscience’ research program takes cues not only from Gibson (specifically, his theory of perceptual systems) but also from Michael Anderson’s recent theory of neural reuse.
Following further from our goal of studying the brain from a Gibsonian perspective, we take seriously the idea that human beings are both embodied (having particular bodies and abilities) and situated (living in particular environments that provide them with particular opportunities for action, that is, with affordances). Practically speaking, this means that in our studies research participants are typically actively engaging with and reporting about (real or VR) stimuli that are meaningful to them, while we indirectly (using dual task paradigms) and directly (using fNIRS) study the brain activity accompanying their behavior.
In addition to cognitive neuroscience, we are also interested in subdisciplines of philosophy that are relevant to cognitive neuroscience such as philosophy of neuroscience, philosophy of mind and phenomenology.
My 2017 paper in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews can be seen as manifesto for the lab. I also recently co-edited a special issue on ecological approaches to neuroscience in the journal Ecological Psychology which can be found here.
Before coming to Muhlenberg:
Most recently, I was a post-doc in translational neuroscience and neurorehabilitation at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute with Laurel Buxbaum and Branch Coslett, whose main affiliation is with the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I used TMS and lesion-symptom mapping to study neural contributions to motor cognition and perception in left-hemisphere stroke patients as well as neurologically-intact individuals. Before that, I was a PhD student in experimental psychology with Rich Masters and John van der Kamp at the University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Human Performance. I used visual masking, eye-tracking, and 3D motion capture to study the functional interpretation of the dorsal and ventral visual pathways. My dissertation was awarded the Li Ka Shing Prize, which goes annually to the top four dissertations produced across all departments, institutes and schools of the University of Hong Kong. Before THAT, I completed a drs. (equivalent to M.S.) in psychology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.