In my group we have a lot of ongoing projects, mostly related to animal vision and camouflage. This includes how many animals can change colour over time, such as rock pool crabs, to match their habitat. Some of these projects explore how human actions are changing the ways that camouflage works and animals hide and change colour. For example, we are studying how climate change and coral bleaching and changes in snow cover will affect how camouflaged animals are from predators, how ingestion of marine plastics may prevent animals from matching their environment, and how changes in water temperature will influence how quickly animals change colour to match their surroundings. All of these have implications for how animals will cope with a changing world.
I’m currently looking at different ways of stimulating the brain and the spinal cord to understand how they control movement, both in healthy people and in people with movement or neurological disorders (e.g. stroke, epilepsy, patients with tremor or spinal cord injury). One of the aims is to understand what does wrong in the central nervous system, how it adapts to the changes and whether we can do anything to help promote recovery or useful adaptations. The idea is that rehabilitation or drugs can help patients, but maybe stimulation of the brain or spinal cord can be used alongside them to provide a “boost” as it were. For example, people that have had a stroke in the parts of the brain related to movement, tend to suffer problems with movement – they may experience weakness of certain body parts or be unable to move them at all. Slowly, people can start to recover their strength and ability to move, as other parts of the brain start to take over the role of the damaged area. Perhaps the stimulation can speed up this process, and speed the rate at which people re-learn to perform normal movements such as picking up a cup.