Welcome to the CTNL

Discovering how the brain represents and processes information.


The Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience Laboratory is an interdisciplinary group of researchers and collaborators, led by Principal Investigator Associate Professor Mark McDonnell. We are located at the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia.

"The ultimate aim of computational neuroscience is to explain how electrical and chemical signals are used in the brain to represent and process information" (Sejnowski, Koch and Churchand, Science 241, p 1299, 1988.)

The Lab's primary focus is to carry out scientific research that advances our  knowledge about how the brain and nervous system processes information.

We do this in collaborations with experimental neuroscientists, but also aim to work with engineers to develop bio-inspired computing and signal processing.

We aim to produce the following results in our research:

  • mathematical and computational models of biological systems that create new neuroscientific knowledge;
  • formulation of testable hypotheses regarding computation and communication in biological neurons and brains;
  • design and development of new methods and tools that are useful for model development and hypothesis testing;
  • new biomedical engineering and biologically inspired technology.

    See Mark McDonnell's 2014 article in The Conversation entitled: "To understand the brain you need electronic engineers too."

    Our primary focus is on understanding the biophysical mechanisms exploited by neurons and networks of neurons to "communicate" with each other. The mathematical and engineering expertise of staff at the ITR provides an environment conducive to new ideas and techniques for investigating hypotheses about intra-organism communication.

    We also conduct computational research on the problem of perceptual representation; that is, the problem of defining the mathematical form of the representations, in the brain, that underlie perception. This work is led by Dr Tony Vladusich; read about it in this ABC Science report: Shades of grey help brain sense surfaces.

    Scientific communication to the general public and school students is highly valued by the Laboratory, and actively pursued.

    For further information please contact:

    Associate Professor Mark McDonnell
    Email: mark.mcdonnell@unisa.edu.au
    Phone: +61 8 8302 3341