Daniel Goldreich
Profile Photo
Associate Professor
PC 413
(905) 525-9140 ext. 28666
(905) 529-6225
We take for granted our ability to perceive the external world, but how does the nervous system accomplish this remarkable feat? Perception begins with physical stimuli that activate sensory cells in the eye, ear, or skin, but it ends with an inference made by the brain. Our sensory organs encode physical stimuli as patterns of electrical impulses that enter the central nervous system, where our neural machinery mysteriously works "behind the scenes" to decode those impulse patterns in order to generate perceptual conclusions. How does this happen? Our laboratory investigates these questions with a focus on the sense of touch. We investigate the full gamut of discriminative touch, which begins with physical stimulation (spatially and/or temporally varying forces on the skin) and ends with perception (the brain's interpretation of the stimulus). Using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches, we consider perception from the points of view of physics (the mechanical stimulus to the skin), neurophysiology (the neural response), and probability calculus (the perceptual inference). Our research methods range from cutaneous measurement to psychophysical testing to Bayesian computational modeling. We enjoy studying perception in its myriad forms. We attempt to understand fascinating phenomena such as perceptual learning, sensory compensation in blindness, sex differences in tactile acuity, the sense of touch during development and aging, and sensory illusions. An ultimate goal of our research is to formulate mathematically accurate models of human perception that have the predictive power and elegance of the equations of physics.
Tactile psychophysics, The neural basis of tactile perception, Perception as Bayesian inference
What pre-requisites do you look for when evaluating a potential thesis student?

I look for students with excellent grades in neuroscience and perception courses, particularly Psych 2F03. Given the nature of my lab's research, I am further inclined towards students who have performed very well in math and physics courses. An excellent cumulative average is a definite plus. I am generally looking for students who are willing to commit to the 9-credit thesis option (Psych 4D09).

What information are you going to want from a student who is interested in working in your lab?

Please email me your unofficial transcript, a brief description of your academic background, and your reasons for wishing to join my lab. Which aspects of my lab's research most interest you?
Upon receipt of your email, I will make a preliminary evaluation, and if you seem to be a potentially suitable candidate for my lab, I will email you back with a series of questions for you to answer. These questions will involve considerable work on your part. For instance, I will ask you to read a particular research article that my lab has published and to answer questions about that article, so that I can further evaluate your ability to think creatively and critically about the sort of research that my lab pursues. After I receive your responses, I may contact you for an individual meeting.

Please email me. Please include "! Thesis request" or "Independent study request" in the subject line of your email, as appropriate.

See above.

Go Back
McMaster University - Faculty of Science | PNB