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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