Josh Bolam

Degree: MSc Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience

Now: Cognitive Neuroscience PhD student, Sport and Exercise Sciences Department at the University of Leeds 

Josh Bolam 500

Josh tailored his undergraduate Psychology degree at Sheffield to focus on cognitive neuroscience modules and chose to further his studies in this area by progressing onto the MSc Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience course. Josh is now using the skills and knowledge he gained during his masters, studying for a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Leeds.

“I developed a sudden and unexpected interest in neuroscientific research toward the end of my BSc in Psychology at the University of Sheffield. Having studied almost exclusively cognitive neuroscience modules during my final undergraduate year, I realised I wanted to further develop my interests understanding the underlying neural basis of cognition and behaviour.

“The multi-disciplinary foundation of the MSc in Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience was what predominantly appealed to me. The course covers an extensive variety of disciplines encompassing cognitive neuroscience, neurobiology, experimental psychology, and computer science. Subsequently, the course gave me an invaluable experience studying the different theoretical approaches and methodologies used to understand current research across traditional discipline boundaries; ranging from single-neuron neurophysiological recordings, to computational modelling of neural functions, as well as the underlying physics of neuroimaging techniques such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, electrophysiology, and Optical Imaging Spectroscopy. The course was intellectually stimulating and particularly challenging. However, even though I was relatively new to most of the course material I never felt out of my depth! To help with this, the majority of the lectures, computer labs, and discussion groups had small group sizes, which meant you had ample opportunities to discuss any issues or queries with lecturers.

“After completing the taught modules in the Autumn and Spring semesters, the Summer semester was dedicated entirely to a research project, which allowed me to apply my accrued knowledge, skills, and experience to a particular topic of interest. My supervisor was Dr Tom Stafford, who introduced me to decision-making modelling. Specifically, we investigated how the underlying psychological processes of perceptual decision-making could be dissociated and quantified utilising Bayesian modelling techniques, in particular the Hierarchical Drift Diffusion Model (HDDM). I applied my newly gained experience in computational programming to simulate decision-making data, model Speed-Accuracy Trade-Offs, and provide mechanistic interpretations for latent decision-making processes influenced by implicit biases toward speed or accuracy.

“Since graduating, I have begun studying for a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience within the Sport and Exercise Sciences Department at The University of Leeds. Once again, I am using decision-making modelling to understand the perceptual and cognitive processes involved in multisensory integration and movement. Overall, the course successfully translated my initial enthusiasm for neuroscientific research into a valuable mixture of analytical knowledge and methodological skills for pursuing a research-orientated career. I would strongly recommend this course for anybody who wishes to gain a diverse and extensive insight into contemporary issues and debates covering the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive neuroscience, and wishes to develop a methodology-focused skill set for addressing the relationship between brain and behaviour.”