Neuroscience workshop for Widening Participation

On 16 January Kira, Orla and Dori gave three workshops for schools visiting our university. The schools were visiting us as part of the Widening Participation initiative, which aims to introduce young people to higher education.

We gave a guided tour through the brain, discussing what neurons are and how they communicate, how the cerebellum adapts, what’s so special about H.M.’s hippocampus and how your frontal lobe helps you make moral decisions.

Demonstrating of cerebellum
Kira and Orla are demonstrating the cerebellum experiment

Lewes STEMfest

Last Saturday 28 April our lab was at Lewes STEMfest. We had a stand were visitors could battle each other using the power of their brain, or were they could control someone else’s arm! In the process we tried to teach them about how the brain works.

Katie and Orla mind battle
Katie and Orla are battling to see who has the strongest frontal cortex

We had great fun, Orla even overcame hear fear and held a snake! And it was great to see so many people interested in Neuroscience!

Orla overcomes her fear of holding snakes
Orla overcomes her fear!


Kira and Dori to start the Sussex Neuroscience Coding Club

In our projects we spend a lot of our time coding in order to analyse our data. Kira primarily uses Matlab, and Dori uses Matlab and Python. In fact, what a lot of people may not know when they start their career in Neuroscience, is that these days the ability to code is pretty much an essential. It can save the researcher many hours, and even improve the quality/objectivity of their data analysis.

Why did we want to start this group?

We noticed that many students were joining the school with little previous experience coding, and limited support for learning the new skill. It can be very daunting when you first start, with so much jargon and syntax ahead of you.  And as you delve further into the syntax, you may even feel duped – afterall, ‘cellfun’ isn’t as exciting as it’s name suggests!

We want to provide a safe space for people to work on developing their coding skills. Whether that be someone who is just starting, and wants some direction on where to begin; or an experienced coder who wants dedicated time to work on their analysis. People of all abilities are welcome, and we want everyone to feel relaxed and supported.

The aim of this group is to “help people to help themselves“.

What is the format of the session?

There will be an short 30 minute lecture, followed by 1.5 hours for self-directed study with the opportunity to ask other people questions. For the initial 30 minute lecture, we welcome anyone who wants to present. This could be someone who wants to share their knowledge, or someone who is stuck on an analysis problem and wants feedback from the group. The remaining 1.5 hours are meant to allow everyone to work on their own projects. That can be an online coding course, writing their own script, or something else. During this time you are able to ask questions and discuss your code. We will not be providing projects, but are happy to point you to resources where you can find projects to work on.

When are the sessions?

The sessions will be every Wednesday 2-4pm in CRPC seminar room, University of Sussex.

People can attend all or just some of the sessions. It is completely up to you, and what fits your schedule the best.

Starting your own coding club

If anyone is interested in setting up a similar group in their own University or workplace, and would like some ideas please feel free to contact Kira by email on

We want to see as many people coding as possible, and for everyone to get the support they need!

PhD Poster Presentation Winner!

This Friday was the first year psychology poster presentation, allowing all first years in the department to share and discuss their work with fellow students and faculty members. Two lab members, Orla and Devin, presented their posters with both students receiving a lot of interest throughout the afternoon. Orla ended up winning the award for best poster!

Orla (left) and Devin with Devin’s poster

As well as the poster presentations, the ‘Great Psychology Bake Off’ took place, with lab member Dori winning the prize for ‘Best Tasting Biscuit’!

Look how pleased Dori looks with her engraved wooden spoon!

Well done to all three lab members – a successful day for Hall Lab!

6th European Visual Cortex Meeting

Last week (11-13 September) the 6th European Visual Cortex Meeting was being held at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in London. We went to the meeting with the majority of the talks.

Cris Niell talked about his large-imaging of the cortex using a crystal skull. This resulted in some interesting findings regarding the responses during stimulation and locomotion.

Nathalie Rochefort gave a talk that complimented the previous one very well. She showed findings that could not be explained by the inhibition model, and presented a new model to explain their data.

During the rest of the conferences we heard about a range of interesting topics regarding the visual cortex, including the effect of brain state, the neuroanatomy and the relation with navigation. This has given us many good ideas to improve our own research!