Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Cardiff University School of Psychology
Maindy Road, Cardiff CF24 4HQ, Wales, UK

HOW COMPLEX IS OUR BRAIN?

Brain Complexity

The human brain is highly complex and is composed of many different regions, each serving a unique set of functions. What enables different brain regions to have different function? Is it attributable to their inherent structural differences? If so, how do structurally distinct brain regions work together in a coordinated manner? To understand the organizing principles of the brain, we study (A) how different brain regions differ structurally, (B) how their structural differences underpin their functional differences, and (C) whether the empirically-observed function of a brain region is indeed what the structure of this brain region is theoretically optimal for.

From Brain Complexity 

to Behavioral Complexity

Mirroring the brain complexity, human behavior and conscious experiences are highly complex. For example, our visual perception of an image is rarely a truthful reflection of the physical features of the image, but is instead biased by the contexts of the image; moreover, our susceptibility to such contextual illusions can vary over ten-fold across healthy individuals. How does behavioral complexity arise from brain complexity? What brain properties give rise to the variability in behavior and conscious experiences across individuals? To understand the links between brain and consciousness, we study (A) how different individuals differ in their brain structure, (B) how the inter-individual differences in brain structure affect brain function, and (C) lead to the inter-individual differences in behavior and conscious experiences.

Brain and Behavioral Plasticity

A remarkable feature of human brain and behavior is their adaptability and plasticity, as Darwin put it, "survival of the fittest". The changes in brain structure not only occur when we are awake and learning, but also continue as we fall asleep. What enables us to have adaptability and plasticity? Is sleep essential for that? To understand the mechanisms of brain and behavioral plasticity, we study (A) how learning and sleep interact to influence brain and behavior, (B) whether different mechanisms of brain plasticity may be at play during wake versus sleep, and (C) whether the contrast between wake and sleep in brain plasticity may hold key to our behavioral plasticity and our ability to constantly learn.