Institute of Neuroscience

Staff Profile

Dr William Sedley

Academic Clinical Lecturer in Neurology

Background

My background is in medicine, and I am currently a specialist registrar in Neurology, based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where I spend half my working week. I also hold an NIHR-funded Academic Clinical Lecturer post, which allows me to spend the other half of my week conducting research into neuroscience and neurological disorders.

My research interests are in the study of perception, particularly hearing, with a focus on perceptual disorders such as tinnitus and musical hallucinations. However, my clinical practice predominantly relates to disorders typically referred to and managed by neurologists. More recently I am beginning to start running experiments on patients with functional neurological disorders.

Research

Tinnitus

I have been interested in the neuroscience of tinnitus since 2008, when I began researching the area. My work focuses on processes related to, and responsible for, tinnitus measured at the level of auditory cortex (the higher hearing centre in the brain) in human volunteers. My studies so far have measured electrical brain activity, as well as brain structure and chemistry.

My previous work has been based both in Newcastle and in London, while my current and planned work is taking place in Newcastle only. Currently planned work aims to better understand tinnitus brain mechanisms using brainwave responses measured by EEG, and also to begin to develop a new treatment for tinnitus based on sound therapy and conduct initial testing.

I am happy to be contacted by patients with tinnitus, though I note that I do not have any particular expertise with the clinical management of tinnitus, which can be better delivered by ENT or Audiology services. I will advertise for research volunteers once experiments are at a suitable stage, but in the meantime I keep a list of interested volunteers who contact me, who I contact in due course if they might be suitable for an upcoming experiment. However, I am sometimes unable to respond quickly.

All of my published papers from previous work are freely downloadable (see 'Publications' section, and just enter the name of any one into a web search engine to find the download page), and of course these could only take place thanks to the generosity and dedication of my volunteers.


Normal sensory (auditory) processing

I have been working on brain mechanisms of normal sound processing since 2007, when I started looking at pitch processing. I have continued this line of work due to interest in the subject in its own right, and also in order to better be able to understand the relevance of these brain processes in the context of abnormal perception such as in tinnitus. Recently, I have worked on the Predictive Coding model of brain function, and how this framework specifically relates to the neural signatures of sound processing we have previously observed. These results, and this framework, have formed much of the basis of a new model of tinnitus that is currently in press, which resolves a number of previously insoluble paradoxes.


Other perceptual disorders

Through collaboration, I have been involved in studies into the brain basis for uncommon disorders of sound processing, including musical hallucinations and misophonia, and helped to develop brain models of these disorders.


Functional neurological disorders

These are one of the most commonly encountered conditions in neurology, and refer to dysfunction of the nervous system (such as weakness or loss of sensation) in the absence of any physical damage to the nerves. They can occur due to triggering events such as injuries, due to psychological factors, life events, or often for no identifiable reason. Presently the brain basis of these conditions is not well understood, and there are no diagnostic tests, with diagnosis relying on clinical examination and tests to exclude physical damage to the nervous system. I am in the process of setting up a study into the brain mechanism of these conditions, which may even lead on to development of a diagnostic test.


Teaching

I do not conduct regular formal teaching as part of my official post, but have performed teaching of various sorts in various capacities.

Publications