SWC's Mission

The brain is remarkable in its ability to produce complex behaviour. While some behaviours are innate, others are learned. This range of complex behaviours allows us to respond flexibly to the physical and social environment around us and meet our changing needs.

A major challenge facing science today is to understand how this richness of behaviour emerges from constituent elements of the nervous system. At SWC, our ambition is to understand these building blocks of behaviour by studying how information travels through biological matter. 

Starting at the level of neurons, we strive to understand how computations in neural circuits, and larger networks in the brain, give rise to adaptive repertoires of complex behaviour. By working closely with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit (GCNU) we aim to provide algorithmic explanations of behaviour, while relating those algorithms to the neural activity arising in circuits composed of identified cell types with unique biophysical and synaptic properties.

In the process, we hope to make significant discoveries about the neural circuit mechanisms underpinning key behavioural processes contributing to a variety of innate and learned behaviours. The answer to these fundamental scientific questions of our era will have a profound impact on our understanding of cognitive function and dysfunction, and indeed of ourselves. 

Schematic showing the flow of information from biophysics, to neurons, to circuits, to algorithms, to behaviour

Component processes underpinning behaviour

To produce flexible responses to the physical and social environment, the brain is thought to depend on the generation of internal models of the world. These models must be dynamically updated with internal and external information to enable the selection of actions that are predicted to produce the most favourable outcome in a given context. To achieve this, the brain must combine multiple processes. Our research at SWC focuses on understanding the following six component processes underpinning complex behaviour:

Find out more about our Research Areas

A centre for interdisciplinary collaboration on the brain

Understanding how the brain gives rise to the building blocks of behaviour demands cross-disciplinary teams of experts. At SWC, we are developing new initiatives for inter-disciplinary collaboration, involving scientists from SWC, GCNU, UCL and beyond. 

Read more about our Research Culture