Jonathan Tsay
February 2020

What do you work on?

I work on how the brain con­trols move­ment. I also inves­ti­gate the role of the cere­bel­lum and basal ganglia in move­ment and cognition.

What did you do using Gorilla?

I use Gorilla to design a battery of cog­ni­tive tasks to inves­ti­gate how the cere­bel­lum con­tribute to cog­ni­tion. These tasks span a wide range, from lan­guage to visual cog­ni­tion, from math to attention.

What did you find?

We find that the cere­bel­lum seems to be involved in many aspects of cog­ni­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, those that require a “sim­u­la­tion” com­po­nent – a dynamic inter­nal trans­for­ma­tion of some mental rep­re­sen­ta­tion carried out in a con­tin­u­ous manner. A classic example is mental rota­tion, where one covert­ly rotates a letter or a Tetris block in their mind. We are cur­rent­ly asking whether this con­ti­nu­ity con­straint is indeed one that per­tains to the cere­bel­lum, and whether such a con­straint holds across many areas of cognition.

For you, what is the stand-out feature in Gorilla?

Gorilla open mate­ri­als really stands out as a great way for researchers to share mate­ri­als, which saves a lot of time and effort re-invent­ing the wheel. It also serves as a way researchers could promote their task to a broader research community.

How did Gorilla make your life or research better, easier or faster?

Gorilla brings togeth­er a com­mu­ni­ty of people. This is the most valu­able part. BeOn­line, the con­fer­ence earlier this year, is a perfect example. The con­fer­ence has taught me a lot about how to run an online experiment from people who have run into similar issues in the past.

How do you think online research is going to change your field?

Online research will make patient studies more acces­si­ble for not only the researcher but also the patient.

“There are many logis­ti­cal / safety con­sid­er­a­tions behind in-person patient research, which could be solved by bring­ing these exper­i­ments online.”

On a per­son­al level, what are you most proud of?

I feel proud when my research assis­tants dis­cov­er what they want to do after grad­u­a­tion (not limited to research).

When you’re not working what do you enjoy doing?

I love taking long walks – clears my mind and helps me think through dif­fi­cult problems.

Who or what orig­i­nal­ly inspired you to work in your field of research?

My advisor, Rich Ivry, con­tin­ues to be an inspi­ra­tion. He is not only an expert in mul­ti­ple domains of psy­chol­o­gy but is also a great medi­a­tor. He has given me a lot of space during my PhD to find inspi­ra­tion, always pro­vid­ing valu­able feed­back and point­ing me to rel­e­vant papers. His early work with patients also inspired many of the exper­i­ments I am working on today.

What is the most excit­ing piece of work or research you’ve ever done?

Pre­vi­ous lab members have designed a novel par­a­digm to isolate implic­it motor adap­ta­tion, our body’s ability to sub­con­scious­ly reduce move­ment errors. I have extend­ed this line of work by asking how sensory input like vision and pro­pri­o­cep­tion, and the uncer­tain­ty inher­ent in these inputs, serve as rel­e­vant learn­ing signals. The ulti­mate goal is to one day trans­late what we learn in the lab to the rehab clinic for indi­vid­u­als with neu­ro­log­i­cal disease.

What’s your favourite paper to use for teach­ing and why?

I rec­om­mend this paper (’10 Simple Rules for Struc­tur­ing Papers’) for anyone start­ing out in acad­e­mia. Writing is an essen­tial skill for any researcher.

Are there any online courses, pod­casts, dis­cus­sion groups or resources that you’d rec­om­mend to others?

For anyone inter­est­ed in neu­ro­science, phi­los­o­phy, and AI, I rec­om­mend thispodcast.

Are there any online courses, pod­casts, dis­cus­sion groups or resources that you’d rec­om­mend to others?

I highly rec­om­mend Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl.

Jonathan Tsay
Motor Learning, Cognitive Neuroscience, Neurorehabilitation
Graduate Student (PhD)
University of California, Berkeley
Jonathan Tsay

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