Magnetic Resonance Imaging researcher joins York University

University of Missouri professor and brain researcher Keith Schneider will join York University on July 1 as a professor in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science & Engineering and as the coordinator of the University’s new Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain research facility. The facility will be located in the new Sherman Health Sciences Research Centre on the Keele campus.

Schneider’s appointment was announced by Walter Tholen, interim dean of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

With a PhD in brain and cognitive science from the University of Rochester, Scheider brings to York a solid background in science and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He has previously been involved in development of MRI centres at Princeton University, the University of Rochester and the University of Missouri. Schneider has also designed and taught MRI courses that include a laboratory component where graduate students learn to operate a fMRI scanner as well as design experiments and analyze the resulting data. He expects to offer this course at York shortly.

Right: Keith Schneider

A pioneer of fMRI studies of human brainstem visual structures, Schneider’s research has been with the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and the superior colliculus, both which receive direct input from the retina via the optic nerve, has shown that both structures are involved in visual selective attention. 

Schneider has also shown that the phenomenon of binocular rivalry occurs in human LGN, proving that previous theories of rivalry as a high-level cognitive phenomenon are incorrect. Rivalry occurs when each of the eyes views an entirely different stimulus (e.g. horizontal lines in the left eye & vertical lines in the right eye). The brain cannot combine these stimuli into a coherent picture of the world, so it defaults to an oscillation in which the subject perceives first one set of lines and then the other.

Schneider’s current work focuses on two major topics: tests of the M-cell theory of dyslexia, and development of enhanced fMRI data analysis algorithms. He is also working on new techniques to provide super-resolution during conventional fMRI scanning. During scanning, a subject’s head moves a small amount and this is unavoidable. This movement was previously regarded as an unfortunate source of noise. Schneider realized that these small movements can be used to provide subtly different perspective views of the brain and actually enhances resolution. Once development is completed, York’s Centre for Vision Research scientists will be among the first in the world to put super-resolution to work in studying major visual structures in the brain.