Colin’s research interests are multidisciplinary spanning Neuroscience and Engineering. He focuses on understanding normal brain function through analysis of brain activity coupled with behavioural quantification and he develops closed-loop brain machine interfaces to interact with ongoing brain activity in real-time. By exploiting the fundamental understanding that he gains using these methods and electronic systems, he also seeks to develop treatment approaches to correct pathophysiological activity associated with specific brain disorders and psychiatric conditions.
Colin studied Computer Engineering (BEng Hons) at the University of Limerick and after graduation, worked for four years as a software and hardware development engineer for the integrated-circuit company Analog Devices. He then gained an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, before commencing his doctoral studies in the MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit at the University of Oxford. His doctoral research showed how the brain's reward system can influence memory related to novel experiences. He found that activating midbrain dopaminergic neurons enhanced subsequent hippocampal reactivation and spatial memory persistence. Colin was awarded a prestigious Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship by Wellcome in 2018. He completed the fellowship in the Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford where he focused on investigating the role of rhythmic activity in the brain and developing technology to interact with it. Using a patented approach he developed, he was able to amplify or suppress ongoing brain oscillations in real-time and he showed that the manipulation was functionally relevant as it altered behaviour. In Cork, he continues to engineer approaches to understand how brain activity supports learning and memory to drive our actions. As part of APC Microbiome Ireland, he is additionally investigating mechanisms of vagus nerve mediated gut microbiota influence on such brain activity.
Research Theme: Theme 3: Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis
SDGs: SDG 3 - Good health and wellbeing
Research key words: in vivo multi-unit electrophysiology, brain stimulation, silicon probes, optogenetics, biosensors, chemogenetics, behavioural quantification, brain machine interfaces, closed-loop brain machine interactions, signal processing, real-time algorithms, embedded systems, field programable gate arrays (FPGAs) neuroscience, neurobiology, microbiome, oscillations, rhythmic activity, cognition, learning and memory, motivation, reward, dopamine, vagus nerve, motor systems, Parkinson’s disease