Dr. Michael S. Beauchamp
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a new technique that allows human brain activity to measure non-invasively with high spatial and temporal precision. Using fMRI, we study the neural mechanisms underlying cognition and perception. The two main themes of our research are visual motion perception and multisensory integration. Our visual system is remarkably adept at extracting information from the moving objects that surround us every day. For instance, we must calculate the speed and direction of an incoming ball in order to catch it, or determine if the driver in the car next to ours is waving at us in a friendly fashion or shaking their fist in an angry fashion. The goal of our research is to determine how the brain translates the rapidly-changing visual information into meaningful actionable concepts such as "wave" or "fist-shake", "hammer" or "saw". This research is important for understanding the difficulties faced by patients who have difficulties interpreting biological motion, such as autism spectrum disorder, and may also have implications for patients with language learning impairments, who have difficulties in the rapid processing required for reading. In addition to visual information, our brain also receives input from other sensory modalities. For instance, even if we cannot see our mobile phone blinking, we can hear its ring or feel its vibration in our pocket. Our research has shown that regions of superior temporal sulcus are especially important for this process of multisensory integration. In superior temporal sulcus, different sensory inputs converge into patches of cortex, allowing multisensory integration to occur.
A tutorial in my laboratory would provide experience with the state-of-the-art in fMRI. Students can design fMRI experiments, create stimuli, collect functional and structural MR images, and create activation maps that illustrate the brain regions responsive to the task they have designed.
Program in Neuroscience
Office: MSB G.550G
Title: Associate Professor
Ph.D. - University of California-San Diego - 1997