Sven Bestmann - Biography#

Prof Bestmann became a Chair in Movement Neuroscience at University College London, UK, in 2016, following completion of a prestigious BBSRC fellowship and ERC STG. He received his PhD in Neurological Studies in 2004, under the supervision of Profs Jens Frahm and John Rothwell, in a joint UCL-University of Goettingen European graduate school. In his work, Prof Bestmann tackled the novel and challenging combination of non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which was generally thought impossible at the time. The technological advance allowed for measuring the impact of stimulation of the cortex across the brain, and helped to establish that cortico-subcortical networks could be targeted with focal non-invasive stimulation of the human brain.

Following his PhD, Prof Bestmann has continued to advance how we quantify the impact of brain stimulation, for basic science and patient benefit. For example, his work has led to international collaborations for improved MR head coil designs for concurrent brain stimulation and fMRI. Following his move to UCL, he received a prestigious BBRSC David Phillips Research Fellowship, during which he made important contributions towards our understanding of how decision processes shape neural representations in the healthy and pathological human motor system, using a multi-disciplinary approach that combined brain stimulation, neuroimaging and computational modelling.

His introduction of “Computational neurostimulation” has provided a new framework for the use of computational approaches to bridge across different levels of observations and generate mechanistic predictions about the behavioural and therapeutic consequences of NIBS. This has culminated in the formulation of novel and testable predictions about the impact of stimulation during decision making and action selection, and the putative mechanistic underpinnings of such changes. His contributions to international training and safety guidelines for brain stimulation are testimony of his exceptional standing as expert in the field.

In his recent work, he has developed novel approaches for high-precision magnetoencephalography (MEG) to enable the quantification of neurophysiological processes in the human brain with vastly improved levels of precision. For example, this has enabled laminar-resolved MEG of the human brain, and single-trial analyses of cortical burst activity and their relevance for movement control. The latter has established important new insight into the relevance of cortical burst activity for the control of movement. His work, with Prof Gareth Barnes, on high-precision MEG work has been a cornerstone for the development of OP-MEG – a novel form of MEG which uses optically-pumped magnetometers that do not require cryogenic cooling, can be worn on the head and enable neuroimaging during movement. This novel technology has transformed the measurement of human neurophysiological activity.

Prof Bestmann is an outspoken advocate of Science Policy and Open Science, and he has served on the board of the Young Academy of Europe for 3 years, including two years as Vice-Chair. In the UK, he was involved in a multi-institutional consortium for developing novel ways to inform Science Policy. He has been a founding member and scientific advisor of the BrainBox Initiative, a joint industry-academic platform for supporting and promoting early and mid-career researchers in the fields of brain stimulation and neuroimaging.

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