View the CV as a pdf:
For the project of my fellowship-funded Ph.D., I am investigating oscillatory connectivity in invasive recordings from Parkinson's disease patients to identify biomarkers for use in adaptive deep brain stimulation-based treatment, under the supervision of Prof. Wolf-Julian Neumann and Prof. Stefan Haufe. For results, see my poster from the ReTune Fall School .
Industrial Placement (Master's) thesis:
“Investigating neural precursors of self-initiated action using machine learning techniques”. First-Class. Placement at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin, Germany. Supervisors: Dr. Matthias Schultze-Kraft and Prof. John-Dylan Haynes. View associated experience.
The readiness potential (RP) is a slow, negative electrical potential preceding voluntary actions observed in EEG recordings. According to the classical interpretation, the RP reflects movement preparation and should only be found immediately prior to voluntary action. In contrast, the stochastic accumulator model argues that the RP is the result of accumulated neural activity and does not reflect movement preparation. One prediction derived from this accumulator model is that events resembling the RP should be found throughout the EEG data of tasks where voluntary actions are permitted. This prediction was tested using machine learning techniques.
Events resembling the spatio-temporal profiles of the RP were identified in the EEG data, however there were discrepancies between these events and details of the prediction of the model. Yet, these events were not found to be false positives resulting from noise in the EEG recordings, raising the possibility that these events were related to voluntary action and the RP in some manner. This provides tentative support for the stochastic accumulator model.
Honours (Bachelor's) thesis:
“Investigating the neuromodulation of striatal activity in silico”. First-Class. Supervisor: Dr. Antonio Gonzalez. View associated experience.
The dendritic plateau potential is thought to shape information processing in striatal projection neurons. The effect of cholinergic and dopaminergic modulation on the plateau potential and the spiking activity of striatal projection neurons was investigated in silico. Plateau potentials were generated with spatially clustered excitatory inputs to dendrites, and the efficacy of cortico-striatal inputs at triggering cell spiking in the presence and absence of cholinergic and dopaminergic modulation were observed.
There were some instances of dopaminergic modulation in which the probabilities of cells spiking were altered, however changes in spiking were largely attributed to alterations in cell excitability. It is concluded that acetylcholine and dopamine do not influence striatal information processing through altering plateau potentials induced by clustered excitatory inputs, with the persistence of the plateau potential supporting its proposed essential role in striatal information processing.
For the project of my Ph.D. Fellowship, I am investigating oscillatory connectivity in invasive recordings of brain activity from Parkinson's disease patients to identify biomarkers for use in next-generation deep brain stimulation treatment paradigms. I have presented posters of results at the International Basal Ganglia Society Conference XIV and the Second Expert Summit on the Future of Deep Brain Stimulation . Furthermore, I have written and contributed to open-source packages, making the advanced signal analysis techniques which I am using in my project available to the wider community (see my open-source software work for more information). Through this project, I am further developing my signal analysis and Python programming skills, gaining experience with open-source software development, as well as gaining an in-depth understanding of movement disorders and brain-computer interfaces.
In parallel with my work in the Interventional and Cognitive Neuromodulation group, I am developing advanced signal processing techniques for use in my Ph.D. project, and bringing them to open-source packages for use in the wider community (see my open-source software work for more information). Accordingly, I am greatly developing my understanding of advanced concepts in linear algebra and calculus, as well as gaining much experience with open-source software development.
My Industrial Placement at the Bernstein Center was funded by an Erasmus+ Traineeship grant. Here, I investigated movement initiation using machine learning and brain-computer interfaces. As part of this work, I co-authored a research article that has been published in eNeuro .
Through this placement, I developed an in-depth understanding of brain-computer interfaces and machine learning techniques, and furthered my understanding of core concepts such as linear algebra, calculus, signal analysis, and statistics. I also gained experience designing and conducting electrophysiological studies with human subjects.
As one of my Ph.D. Fellowship rotations, I began work for the development of a 3D-printed head phantom for improving our understanding of forward models of brain activity, and the effects of non-invasive stimulation on brain activity. Through this highly practical project, I improved my understanding of the technical aspects of electrophysiological research, 3D printing, and electrical engineering.
As part of my Honour's project, I investigated the regulation of striatal activity through computational modelling. My tasks involved conducting literature reviews, collecting and analysing simulated electrophysiological data using Python, as well as writing scientific reports. Through this placement I developed an in-depth understanding of the simulation and analysis of electrophysiological data.
My work focused on the investigation of choice-predictive brain signals and movement initiation in the context of consequential decisions, and was funded by a Wellcome Trust scholarship. My tasks included conducting EEG and behavioural experiments, with analysis of the associated data using MATLAB. This provided me with a solid grounding in the scientific method, and experience as a researcher working in an academic laboratory setting.
I am a maintainer of the popular open-source MNE signal analysis toolbox for Python, a package with 2,500 stars on GitHub, and references in over 4,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers. My contributions have included the addition of new features, bug fixes, and project maintenance, including the implementation of several advanced, multivariate signal processing methods in the MNE-Connectivity package (related to my work in the Uncertainty, Inverse Modeling and Machine Learning Group).
I developed PyBispectra, an open-source Python package for performing advanced signal analysis using the bispectrum (related to my work in the Uncertainty, Inverse Modeling and Machine Learning Group). There is support for analysing: cross-frequency coupling (amplitude-amplitude, phase-phase, and phase-amplitude coupling); frequency-domain wave shape features; as well as time delay estimations between signals. The package uses multiprocessing and Numba-based C compilation for rapid, computationally efficient signal processing.
I developed the PyPARRM package, an open-source Python implementation of the PARRM algorithm for removing stimulation artefacts from electrophysiological recordings (related to my work in the Interventional and Cognitive Neuromodulation Group). This package is equipped with multiprocessing support for rapid signal processing, as well as an extensive interactive tool for exploring the effects of different filter parameters on the data.
For the full list of publications, click here.
Köhler, R.M., Binns, T.S., Merk, T., Zhu, G., Yin, Z., Zhao, B., Chikermane, M., ..., Kühn, A.A., Haynes, J.-D., Neumann, W.-J. (2023). Dopamine and neuromodulation accelerate the neural dynamics of volitional action in Parkinson’s disease. Pre-print. DOI: 10.1101/2023.10.30.564700.
The ability to initiate volitional action is fundamental to human behavior. Loss of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with impaired action initiation, also termed akinesia. Dopamine and subthalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) can alleviate akinesia, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown.
We recorded invasive neural activity from both sensorimotor cortex and subthalamic nucleus (STN) in 25 PD patients performing self-initiated movements. Readiness potentials and brain signal decoding revealed long latencies between the neural representation of motor intention and execution. Dopamine and STN-DBS shortened these latencies, while shifting directional cortico-subthalamic oscillatory coupling from antikinetic beta (13-35 Hz) to prokinetic theta (4-10 Hz) rhythms. Our study highlights a key role for dopamine and basal ganglia in the evolution of preparatory brain signals and orchestration of neural dynamics in encoding of volitional action.
Binns, T.S., Köhler, R.M., Vanhoecke, J., Chikermane, M., Gerster, M., Merk, T., Pellegrini, F., Faust, K., Schneider, G.-H., Kühn, A.A., Haufe, S., Neumann, W.-J., 2023. Dopamine and stimulation distinctly modulate cortico-subthalamic communication in Parkinson’s disease ReTune Fall School, Apolda, Germany.
Building on earlier work, this poster shows results of the first-ever within-subject examination of cortico-subthalamic interaction in Parkinson's disease across medication and deep brain stimulation states using invasive recordings of subthalamic nucleus local field potentials and the cortex with electrocorticography. The results highlight that dopamine and stimulation alter distinct aspects of communication with unique spectral profiles, and further supports a role for cortico-subthalamic interactions in Parkinson's disease pathology. Presented at the Early-Career Fall School of the German Research Foundation (DFG)-funded ReTune research centre.
Merk, T., Köhler, R.M., Peterson, V., Lyra, L., Vanhoecke, J., Chikermane, M., Binns, T.S., ..., Kühn, A.A., Richardson, R.M., Neumann, W.-J. (2023). Invasive neurophysiology and whole brain connectomics for neural decoding in patients with brain implants. Pre-print. DOI: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-3212709/v1.
Brain computer interfaces (BCI) provide unprecedented spatiotemporal precision that will enable significant expansion in how numerous brain disorders are treated. Decoding dynamic patient states from brain signals with machine learning is required to leverage this precision, but a standardized framework for identifying and advancing novel clinical BCI approaches does not exist. Here, we developed a platform that integrates brain signal decoding with connectomics and demonstrate its utility across 123 hours of invasively recorded brain data from 73 neurosurgical patients treated for movement disorders, depression and epilepsy.
First, we introduce connectomics-informed movement decoders that generalize across cohorts with Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy from the US, Europe and China. Next, we reveal network targets for emotion decoding in left prefrontal and cingulate circuits in DBS patients with major depression. Finally, we showcase opportunities to improve seizure detection in responsive neurostimulation for epilepsy. Our platform provides rapid, high-accuracy decoding for precision medicine approaches that can dynamically adapt neuromodulation therapies in response to the individual needs of patients.
Of almost 1,000 applicants, I was one of around only 30 people to be accepted for this prestigious and extremely competitive fellowship. Associated with my work as a Ph.D. Fellow of the Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin, Germany.
My work on the first fully-invasive, within-patient analysis on the effects of medication and deep brain stimulation on cortico-subthalamic connectivity was awarded with the prize for best poster at the Early-Career Fall School of the German Research Foundation (DFG)-funded ReTune research centre.
Upon completion of my M.Sci. degree, I was honoured to receive the University of Aberdeen’s prize for best neuroscience student, a yearly prize presented to a student on the Neuroscience degree programme in recognition of the individual’s excellent performance during their time at the university.
This generous grant from the British Council allowed me to complete my Master's project in the Haynes Laboratory of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin, Germany.
I was successful in receiving this highly competitive scholarship from the prestigious Wellcome Trust to complete my research in the Consciousness, Attention, and Perception Laboratory of the University of Aberdeen, UK.
I co-founded the Code Clinic of the ReTune research consortium, with the goal of improving the quality and openness of academic programming, a crucial step for improving the quality and reproducibility of scientific research. Towards this, the Code Clinic organises reviews for code being released alongside scientific publications and as open-source packages, ensuring a high-degree of code quality. Furthermore, we organise a pair programming scheme in which junior programmers can receive personalised feedback on their code from experienced coders, improving the overall quality of the code and teaching coding best practice principles to these novice programmers.
As a member of the BNA I took full advantage of the Association’s activities, attending talks and symposia to broaden my understanding of various neuroscience topics. Furthermore, I contributed an article examining the neuroscientific study of free will to the BNA’s Summer 2020 Bulletin allowing me to demonstrate and further hone my academic writing skills.
I delivered lectures to Master's students of the Charité's Medical Neurosciences programme, with topics on: basal ganglia anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology; research methods for invasive neurophysiology; and electrophysiological biomarkers of movement disorders in invasive neuronal recordings.
In this seminar series for Master's students, I supervised the topics of generalised eigendecompositions (common spatial pattern filters, spatio-spectral decomposition, etc...) and oscillatory connectivity in neuroimaging.
A week-long, intensive hands-on course in which students develop their understanding of electronics, microcontrollers, and machine vision through the construction of an increasingly capable robot.
This course teaches principles of open and collaborative science, by which research can be integrated across academia, industry, and with the general public, ensuring that academic research is innovative and relevant to wider society.
A course covering key aspects of machine learning and inverse modelling in neuroscience, including mathematical frameworks for inverse modelling, regularisation of inverse solutions, frameworks for supervised and unsupervised machine learning, and Bayesian inference.
An intensive week-long course of lectures and workshops covering theoretical foundations and practical aspects of ethics in neuroscience, including topics such as deep brain stimulation, brain death, artificial intelligence, and data protection.
An eight week-long course consisting of seminars and workshops in which participants are trained to identify common problems related to tranaparency and reproducibility in scientific research. In doing so, participants learn how to overcome these challenges, and implement best practices in their own work to make it more robust, transparent, and reproducible.
A three week-long, highly intensive online summer school covering modelling, statistics, and machine learning, focusing on traditional and emerging tools of computational neuroscience, with extensive group work and Python programming.
Available upon request: