The University of Sheffield
Department of Psychology

Professor John Porrill BA, PhD

The University of Sheffield
Sheffield S10 2TP, UK
Tel: (+44) 0114 222 6557
Fax: (+44) 0114 276 6515
Room: G-15


BA, PhD (Cantab)

Research Interests

My research is aimed at developing a computational understanding of the brain and its role in behaviour.

Mathematical modelling
Very fruitful collaborations with psychologists and neuroscientists (my own training is as a mathematician and theoretical physicist) have allowed me to develop a programme of research based on combining rigorous mathematical modelling with a detailed understanding of the underlying neuroscience.

Identifying the cerebellar algorithm
The central theme of my current research is to identify the cerebellar algorithm. With colleagues I have developed a view of cerebellar function which emphasises the importance of a basic 'decorrelation control' algorithm implemented in the repeating microcircuit based around the Purkinje cell.

This research has been more successful than we could have hoped. For example:

Our enthusiasm for a cross-disciplinary approach makes myself and my close colleague Paul Dean natural partners in current and planned multi-site research programmes linking neuroscience and robotics.


BBSRC, Dean & Porrill Sheffield, lead by UCL with Cambridge: Cerebellum as a neuronal machine: behavioural, electrophysiological and computational analysis of classical conditioning. (2004 for 3yrs) c. £750K

EPSRC, lead by Dean & Porrill, Sheffield with Edinburgh & UWE: Functions of Distributed Plasticity in a Biologically-Inspired Adaptive Control Algorithm: From Electrophysiology to Robotics. (2004for 3yrs) £767K.

BBSRC, Dean & Porrill: Neural Control of Eye Movements (2000 for 3yrs) £120,000

Teaching and administrative duties

I am module organiser for module 336. I am also responsible for U/g admissions and sit on the Psychology Management Committee, Psychology Teaching Committee, Computing Committee and Postgraduate Studies Committee.

Activities and Distinctions

Invited presentations include

Postgraduate Students

Research Assistants


A list of key publications can be found below.  For a full list of publications please click here

Journal articles