Matthieu M de Wit
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
I teach courses on cognitive and systems neuroscience that commonly intersect with philosophical topics centering on fundamental questions about the relationship between the brain and cognition and current attempts at answering them.
I love teaching because I love to introduce students to new ideas and to guide their self-discovery of these ideas. However, I get most excited when students provide me with a new insight, which happens more often than expected.
An important goal of the discussions in my classes is to increase the sophistication with which students articulate and critically evaluate their own and others' ideas, whether these relate to neuroscience or to issues beyond the lab.
Ultimately, as a teacher, I want to help students change in positive and lasting ways to become better thinkers, writers, speakers and researchers, allowing them to lead rewarding professional lives and to productively contribute to society.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
In my lab we ask questions about the role of the brain in the production of behavior and cognition in human beings. We approach this topic at the level of brain regions and systems (rather than the level of neurons and neurotransmitters).
The basic starting point for our research is that owners of brains are both embodied (having particular bodies and abilities) and situated (living in particular environments that provide them with particular opportunities for action, that is, with affordances). Within this context, we ask whether the brain may be more fruitfully considered as a dynamic network of pluripotent (functionally diverse) neural resources or rather as a network of (functionally specific) neural modules, as has traditionally been assumed.
Practically speaking, this means that in our studies, research participants are typically actively engaging with and reporting about (real or VR) stimuli that are meaningful to them, while we use dual-task paradigms and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study the brain activity accompanying their behavior.
In addition to cognitive neuroscience, I take a deep interest in subdisciplines of philosophy that are relevant to cognitive neuroscience such as philosophy of neuroscience and phenomenology.