Professor John Porrill BA, PhD
The University of Sheffield
Sheffield S10 2TP, UK
Tel: (+44) 0114 222 6557
Fax: (+44) 0114 276 6515
BA, PhD (Cantab)
My research is aimed at developing a computational understanding of the brain and its role in behaviour.
Very fruitful collaborations with psychologists and neuroscientists (my own training is as a mathematician and theoretical physicist) have allowed me to develop a programme of research based on combining rigorous mathematical modelling with a detailed understanding of the underlying neuroscience.
Identifying the cerebellar algorithm
The central theme of my current research is to identify the cerebellar algorithm. With colleagues I have developed a view of cerebellar function which emphasises the importance of a basic 'decorrelation control' algorithm implemented in the repeating microcircuit based around the Purkinje cell.
This research has been more successful than we could have hoped. For example:
- It provides a unified description of sensory and motor functions;
- It has revealed a surprising functional role for closed cerebellar loops which have recently been traced in detail and whose function is regarded as a challenge to theorists;
- It has provided a computational answer to the longstanding puzzle as to why there are two sites of plasticity in VOR adaptation;
- In addition the algorithm has been implemented in hardware by our collaborators in Bristol Robotics Lab and is successfully learning to stabilise a robot mounted camera.
Our enthusiasm for a cross-disciplinary approach makes myself and my close colleague Paul Dean natural partners in current and planned multi-site research programmes linking neuroscience and robotics.
BBSRC, Dean & Porrill Sheffield, lead by UCL with Cambridge: Cerebellum as a neuronal machine: behavioural, electrophysiological and computational analysis of classical conditioning. (2004 for 3yrs) c. £750K
EPSRC, lead by Dean & Porrill, Sheffield with Edinburgh & UWE: Functions of Distributed Plasticity in a Biologically-Inspired Adaptive Control Algorithm: From Electrophysiology to Robotics. (2004for 3yrs) £767K.
BBSRC, Dean & Porrill: Neural Control of Eye Movements (2000 for 3yrs) £120,000
Teaching and administrative duties
I am module organiser for module 336. I am also responsible for U/g admissions and sit on the Psychology Management Committee, Psychology Teaching Committee, Computing Committee and Postgraduate Studies Committee.
Activities and Distinctions
- I was an invited participant in recent workshops on the future of cerebellar research held at the University of Tuebingen & St Louis and co-author of the workshop review in Cerebellum.
- I was an invited participant in the Foresight Cognitive Systems Project InterAction conference organised in 2003 by the DTI and in a number of Cluster Group Meetings supported by the EPSRC in 2004.
- I was elected Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in 2001.
Invited presentations include
- London 2006: invited discussant Gatsby Foundation International conference on the Cerebellum
- Edinburgh 2005, 2006: Neurosciences Graduate Program
- Antwerp 2005: Neuro-IT Cerebellar Modeling Workshop
- Dorchester 2005: Quinetiq Symposium: Learning in Neuronal Networks
- Warwick 2005: Mathematical Neuroscience: network analysis
- Tuebingen 2004: International Conference on the Cerebellum
- Oxford 2004: Symposium on Biological and Computational Vision
- Edinburgh 2003: EPSRC Novel Computation Initiative
- I am currently co-supervising Adrian Haith, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh in the Neuroinformatics Doctoral Training Centre.
- Dr Nathan Lepora (BBSRC)
- Dr Sean Anderson (EPSRC)
A list of key publications can be found below. For a full list of publications please click here
This person does not have any publications available.