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Durham University News


Distinguished neurosciences expert delivers Ferrier lecture

(12 November 2004)

One of the country’s most distinguished visual neurosciences experts will be delivering the prestigious Royal Society Ferrier Lecture at the University of Durham next week (17 November).

Professor Alan Cowey, a fellow of the Royal Society and Medical Research Council Professor of Physiological Psychology at the University of Oxford until he retired in September 2002, will be presenting the Ferrier Lecture entitled “Magnetic Brain Stimulation: What can it tell us about brain function?” in the Appleby Lecture Theatre, University of Durham, Science Site, South Road, Durham at 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday 17 November 2004.

University staff, students and members of the public are welcome to attend the event which is followed with a drinks reception.

Sunderland-born Professor Cowey is an Honorary Graduate (DsC) of Durham University. He was educated at Bede Grammar School and Emmanuel College Cambridge (MA PhD) and has held numerous academic posts in America and worked at Cambridge University before embarking on a long career at Oxford University, becoming Director of the Oxford Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour (1991-96). Among his many professional appointments he was President of the European Brain and Behaviour Society 1986-88.

The Royal Society's Ferrier Lecture is a very prestigious lecture. It occurs triennially and the lecturer is offered the opportunity to take this lecture, once delivered at the Royal Sciety first, to any other part of the country to be delivered for a second time.


For further information contact:
Professor David Milner, Wolfson Research Institute, University of Durham, Queen’s Campus. Durham. Tel 0191 334 0433

Notes to editors

  1. The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy of the UK dedicated to promoting excellence in science. It plays an influential role in national and international science policy and supports developments in science engineering and technology in a wide range of ways.
  2. Like his nineteenth century contemporaries David Ferrier tried to reveal cerebral localisation of function by direct electrical stimulation of the exposed brain of animals. With some notable exceptions the results were disappointing and confined to the systems governing movement, posture and balance.
  3. Much more was learned half a century later when Penfield stimulated the exposed brains of conscious patients who were being assessed for brain surgery, because the patients could describe their induced sensations and feelings.
  4. The recent technique of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), by which the brain is stimulated non-invasively from outside the head, allows almost anybody to be studied. As a result, TMS has successfully revealed new areas of brain function as well as functional mechanisms, like the plasticity that underlies recovery from brain damage, selective attention, awareness, and interactions between cortical areas - all of which Professor Alan Cowey will discuss in the lecture.

Media enquiries to: Tom Fennelly, Public Relations, University of Durham, tel. 0191 334 6078, e-mail:

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