Professor Philip Winn and his research team explore brain–behaviour relationships with particular interest in structures deep in brain. Over several years they have developed the general hypothesis that relatively high order processes are represented much lower in the brain than generally supposed. This idea of "higher" functions in "lower" structures is consistent with the notion of distributed processing and representation; with the concept of layered neural architectures; and with evolutionary approaches to brain functioning.
Careful examination of behaviour is important because many brain disorders are described in terms of altered behaviour – changes in the quality of movement or changed patterns of action are often the first signs of neural dysfunction. Phil’s lab looks at how action-outcome associations are formed – that is, how we learn about relationships between our actions and the consequences of those actions – and how reward is processed through integrated neural circuits. This is part of a programme of research into brain–behaviour relationships that contributes to our understanding of addiction, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia, all of which show problems with the selection and execution of actions in one way or another.
Phil is an elected Fellow of both the Royal Society of Biology and the Association for Psychological Science in the USA. He began his career at St Andrews, becoming Dean of Science and then a Vice Principal. He joined Strathclyde in January 2010 as a Deputy Principal with a brief to develop the University Strategic Plan 2011-2015 after which he served as Head of SIPBS until 2015. He is currently Chair of Medical Research Scotland; is a Board member of the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA); and is an international adviser to the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (NFETL) in Ireland. He is also Honorary Professor of Psychology at the University of St Andrews.