Lars A. Ross, PhD, is a research assistant professor of Imaging Sciences and Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He received a graduate degree in psychology at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and completed his PhD in the cognitive neuroscience program at The City College of New York. He went on to do postdoctoral research at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania. He came to URMC in late 2020, and his research aims to understand how information from our senses is integrated and processed in the brain and how this impacts perception, cognition, and behavior. He is also interested in how these processes develop throughout life and differ in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
Please tell us about your research.
I am interested in how information from different sensory modalities is integrated in the brain, also called multisensory integration, and the effect it has on perception, cognition, and behavior. Most of my work is in audiovisual speech perception, studying the effect of visual articulation on speech recognition. I am also interested in how these important brain functions develop throughout childhood and into adulthood, and I explore differences in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. I have used psychophysics, electroencephalography, and transcranial direct current stimulation in my studies but in recent years I have mostly been conducting behavioral experiments and neuroimaging.
How did you become interested in your area of expertise?
I actually came to the US initially to study sleep and sleep disorders but ended up joining a fellowship program in developmental neuroscience with a researcher who studied multisensory integration in babies and toddlers. At that time, I was working on an experiment using a multisensory motion illusion when I discovered that John Foxe’s team was working with the same paradigm with the addition of doing electrophysiological recordings in humans. I had done EEG work for my graduate degree in Psychology in Berlin and was very interested in deepening my skills and knowledge of this technique. It was through that common interest that we began our work together and I eventually became his PhD student with multisensory integration as the focus of my dissertation.
What brought you to the University of Rochester?
It was brought to my attention that the Imaging Sciences Department was looking for a researcher who would also help them with perfusion post processing, a relatively novel technique in neuroimaging that is used to diagnose brain tumors. The idea of doing something new that had a direct clinical application appealed to me and now my work is split between Imaging Sciences and Neuroscience. I am also happy to be back in the lab where I completed my PhD.
What is your favorite piece of advice?
So what? Here is a quote from Andy Warhol: “Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, “So what?, I don’t know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.” I like this “advice” for its radical simplicity and broad applicability. I just wish it was easier to follow.
Article originally appeared in the NeURoscience Newsletter Volume 18.