Potrait courtesy Francois Martin, December 2009
Portrait courtesy  Francois Martin.

Ron Skelton's Home Page: Research and Teaching
Note: I have retired and am no longer accepting graduate students,
but I am still collaborating with other researcers intesested in spatial navigation.
This page has not been updated since 2014 (except for this note.)


Research Information

Associate Professor. Area: Cognitive Neuroscience

Research Interests: Recovery of function after traumatic brain injury, Spatial learning and memory, Virtual Environments

Copyright notice: All material on this website is provided solely for the use of UVic students, other researchers, or individuals who want more information about brain injury, for their own private study or review. Any other use may be an infringement of copyright if done without securing the permission of the copyright owners.

Current Projects

  1. Traumatic Brain Injury and Navigation in a Virtual Arena Maze 

  2. Gender differences in spatial navigation. 

  3. Effects of stress on navigational strategy

  4. Eye-tracking and brain-activity analysis in research and business applications.

Recent publications  (Curriculum Vitae)

    1. Livingstone-Lee, Sharon A., Philip M. Zeman, Susan T. Gillingham, and Ronald W. Skelton (2014) . “Navigational Strategy May Be More a Matter of Environment and Experience Than Gender.” Learning and Motivation.  Volume 45, February 2014, Pages 30–43 doi:10.1016/j.lmot.2013.09.003. PDF
    2. van Gerven, D.J.H., Schneider, A.N., Wuitchik, D.M., & Skelton, R.W. (2012). Direct measurement of spontaneous strategy selection in a virtual Morris water maze shows females choose an allocentric strategy at least as often as males do.  Behavioural Neuroscience, Vol 126(3), 2012, 465-478. doi: 10.1037/a0027992. PDF
    3. Livingstone-Lee, S.A., Murchison, S.C., Zeman, P.M., Gandhi, M.M., van Gerven, D.J., Stewart, L., Livingston, N.J., & Skelton, R.W. (2011) Simple Gaze Analysis and Special Design of a Virtual Morris Water Maze Provides a New Method for Differentiating Egocentric and Allocentric Navigational Strategy Choice. Behavioural Brain Research, 225, 117-125. PDF
    4. Goodrich-Hunsaker, N.J., Livingstone, S.A., Skelton, R.W. & Hopkins, R.O. (2010) Spatial Deficits in a Virtual Morris Water Maze Navigation Task in Amnesic Participants with Hippocampal Damage, Hippocampus, 20, 481-491. (Published online DOI 10.1002/hipo.20651April, 2009) PDF

Traumatic Brain Injury Links

There is lots of information about traumatic brain injury on the web. Here are sites with lots of links and help in one form or another: 

Teaching Information: Fall 2014

Learning Skills:  Many students find that my course make demands that they have not encountered before. Part of this is due to the complexity of the material I teach and part is due to the importance I place on the development of academic skills - the ability to comprehend, analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply knowledge.  If you are finding that you are not doing as well as you would expect or like, one way to improve your scores (and your academic skills for all courses and your career) is to master some of the Learning Skills with the help of UVic Counselling Services  and in particular, their downloadable Learning Skills Handouts which deal with such things as notes and exam taking.

How to Succeed in College (download version) Highly recommended. This 2-page article is written by the President of the American Psychological Society and consists of advice written by graduate students in a learning and memory course.  Students were asked to advise younger siblings entering as freshmen on how to study and learn at University.  It provides excellent advice on Taking Notes, Studying, and Preparing for and performing on an Exam.  The advice is sometimes counter-intuitive, but it is extremely sound based on learning/memory research.  Web version

Position on Cheating Unfortunately some students appear to be trying to gain unfair advantage over other students in my courses by cheating. Here is an explanation of my position and my actions.

See also Teaching Philosophy below.  Or funnier: Dave Barry on College (How not to teach.)

PSYC 215A (A01) Introduction to Biological Psychology (Not being taught by me.)

Course Outline (Syllabus) for Spring Term 19-Aug-13 (Update: ) Also available here (After Sept 1).
     You can get an eBook here for ~ $100

Textbook website: Practice quizzes, other resources and demos.

Schedule Details Planned schedule of topics and textbook pages. 

Experiential Learning (EL): website http://www.uvic.ca/experiential/PSYC215A/  or click HERE (Available for viewing now, entries by Sep 8th)
Final Reports:  These documents will let you see what questions you will be asked for your final report.  
   Report on Journal and Website Activities

EL and Moodle websites should be available by Tuesday Sept 9 (if not before)

Notes from 
Lecture 1: Intro to course 
Lecture 2 
Lecture 3  (This will be the last lecture posted here rather than Moodle.) Additional materials for this lecture are posted in Moodle.
Lecure 4: See Moodle 
Lecture 1.5 (Powerpoint):  See Moodle 
Lecure 4: See Moodle (and so on).. Sounds of Neurons.

Lecture notes and course materials are posted in Moodle.  (Available early Sept)

Records for 2013 (to be posted after Midterm 1) See PDF (not Grades list) in Moodle. (Available after Midterm 1)       

Special Interest Links:
Too Much Coffee
(How does caffeine work and how much coffee is too much.) (Comic strip)
Coffee and the brain (from a great site) video
(Personal opinion: If you are agitated, irritable, short-tempered or can't sleep, you are probably drinking too much coffee.)

Surveys - During the term you will be given the opportunity to tell me how you feel about my instructional methods and course content. They give you the opportunity to express yourself collectively (Agree/disagree etc) and individually (via comments).  I see all the responses but no-one, including me, can tell who made the response.  

  1. Instructor This survey asks 15 questions about instructional characteristics, such as stating clear objectives, effectively using class time, organization, use of humour. The intuitive password will be given in class. To comment on Tests, see Content survey  
  2. Content This survey asks 20 questions about the tests, text, lecture content, lecture pace etc.
  3. No Shows This short, 4-question survey is for those students who routinely do not attend class.  I want to sample their (your?) opinion as to whether the course needs to be changes into something they want to attend, or whether they like the setup that lets them skip class. PW NoShow (Case sensitive)

Web resources
Resting Membrane Potential 1 Youtube video.

Synaptic transmission: 

  1.  www.williams.edu:803/imput/index:Synaptic transmission: Complex but complete, with animations/video

  2. http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/synapse.html says it is “Neuroscience for Kids” but its quite advanced (and good)

  3. http://www.ablongman.com/html/psychplace_acts/synapse/intro.html A very good review of the synapse and synaptic function.

Brain LinksAt least 7 sites devoted to illustrating neuroanatomy and brain basics.

Anatomy Links: A section of this web page (below) that provides multiple links to other sites that describe neuroanatomy.

Receptive Fields  Good tutorial

The Brain from Top to Bottom  A good source of alternative explanations and images for practically every topic in the course. choose your level of knowledge (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and the organizational level you are interested in (5 levels from molecular to social).

How big is that? How small is that? The scale of the universe. (From smaller than microscopic to bigger than astronomical) (Amazing web site)


PSYC 323 (A01) Advanced Biopsychology (Fall 2014)

All course-critical information is now on the CourseSpaces page.


PSYC 415B/550 (A01) Advanced topics in Physiological Psychology (Not being offerred in 2014-15) (Future of this course in unclear. Ask again later.)
Note: This is a difficult and demanding course and you will definitely need the PREQs.  In the first half we will be covering the textbook at the rate of one chapter per week, and there will be two assignments each week. After the 3-part midterm, each student prepares a poster, a 15-minute talk for the class, and a 10-page term paper. There is a final exam in the exam period.  Please do not enroll unless you are really serious about taking the course and doing the work because you may prevent students who are serious from being able to enroll.  

Office Hours: After class Monday and Thursday - 1:00 - 2:00 before the midterm, and before class 10:30-11:30 after the midterm.

Address for course assignments: PSYC415B@UVic.ca

All materials moved to CourseSpaces 14 Jan 2014


Readings: 3 Research articles (at least) and 5 extra Readings about brain injury and srecovery. Recommended background. 2 will be required reading (by date TBA)

Presentation Schedule  To be provided once decided by class) 

Tips on Posters and Presentations.  (This may be lecture notes from lecture 16, since I mayn't have time to go through them all in class.)

Additional Materials

    Marking guides (How to get the best possible mark)

    Poster and Talk preparation advice (How to give the best possible poster and presentation) 

Please let me know if any of these links is broken (skelton @ uvic.ca)

    Note: the following links were posted last year and may not work yet.  I will fix them as we come to need them in the term. If you find a broken link, please let me know.

General Readings

    Teaching Philosophy: A page giving some of the principles I use and aspirations I have for my  teaching.  Philosophy and Techniques of University Teaching

IN DEFENSE OF THE COLLEGE LECTURE (Good lectures take good lecturing, and good listening).

THE ILLUSION OF COMPREHENSION  "I studied so hard for the test. I was sure that I had it down cold. And I still got a C! How is that possible?"  This essay contains some thoughts on why students think this and how testing methods contributes to this illusion, and to poor learning strategies.

TEACHING TO THE TEST  "The tests didn't match the material." "Some of the material on the tests was barely mentioned in class." One of the hazards of teaching is "teaching to the test", where students are given only the material that is on the tests.  Although this leads to superior performance on tests, the value of this knowledge in other arenas is negligible.

How big is that? How small is that? The scale of the universe. (From smaller than microscopic to bigger than astronomical) (Amazing web site)

   Last Revised: September 09, 2013 .

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More research Information

I have set up a page to help me communicate with a colleague.  It should be of no interest or use to anyone else. Arena Page

There is also a page where I provide the specification for the CANASSIST-built eye-tracker used in my lab. Eye Tracker Specifications

I have a personal webpage that includes information on Unreal

Personal Interest Statement

Building on my background in the neural basis of learning and memory, I am presently studying recovery of cognitive function after traumatic brain injury. I continue to be interested in hippocampal mechanisms of memory and spatial cognition, but now study human cognitive processes, seeking new ways to assess recovery from cognitive losses after brain injury. My current research uses a simulation of the Morris Water Maze in virtual space to study place learning after traumatic brain injury.  A recent publication in this area is:

  I am also involved in developing an interview-based outcome measure for brain injury.  This Functional Outcome Profile explores over 60 areas of a survivor's life, quantifying the impact of the brain injury on their everyday functioning at home and in the community and getting them to rate their satisfaction with different aspects of their family, social and spiritual life.  The profile also examines the impact of the injury on people involved in the survivors life and care, obtaining a second view of the frequency of problems and a new perspective of the impact of the injury on other peoples' lives.  A recent conference presentation on this is:

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Links to Brain-related sites on the Web

"Men ought to know that from nothing else but thence [from the brain]come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an special manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and what are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet and what unsavory.  . . .  And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us, . . . .  All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy  . . .  In these ways I am of opinion that the brain exercises the greatest power in the man."  Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease, 4th Century,  B.C.E.

Anatomy Links

(Aug 2012) UVic anatomy data bases (Pretty basic) 

    Primal Pictures Interactive Anatomy - neuroanatomy or Brain

    Anatomy and Physiology Online - Nervous System


National Geographic Brain: Interactive website provides fun intro to brain anatomy.


Virtual Reality Brain Project: Interesting site. Rotatable dissections of the brain, with labeled Hot spots. As the site says, "Using QuickTime Virtual Reality Technology, you will be able to interact with several human brain dissections. These "VR Brains" can be resized, rotated in all directions, and certain areas can be selected allowing you to identify structures of particular interest."

3-D Brain Anatomy From PBS.org. A fun and simple overview of brain anatomy and function.  See also The Secret Life of the Brain for episodes on brain development.


'Basic brain information' useful to people new to brain injury or students new to the brain.


Neuroscience for Kids: Information here is simple and fun.  
        There are some neat FAQs answered here, including, "Do we use only 10% of our brains?"


The Digital Anatomist:  This site describes a really neat product (that I use in my lectures) in which a brain has been digitized and rendered into 3D.  There are lots of interesting things to explore, but one of the best are the Movies of the the parts of the brain and the limbic system, which you can access quickly from the page listing the available movies or the movie of Explode Brain. (Note: these movies are 3-7Mb so you should have a decent connection  to download and a decent system to view them.)


  Parts of the Brain, by "Pinky and The Brain"  (Cartoon Movie) or Pinky and the Brain's "Brainstem" on the Web. The Words. 
            Fun and reasonably accurate but too fast to learn from. You can check your knowledge against it.


Neuroanatomy Tutorials  Interactive tutorial using sheep brain sections (photographic) and multiple-choice questions. Good and basic.


About Brain Injury: A site built for people who have a loved one in a coma.  Lots of basic information about comas and brain injury.  A very good introduction to Brain Anatomy. (If you know someone in a coma, you may want to start at their home page, "While you are waiting".) 


There are also sites from the brain injury associations local to Victoria. These sites have some general information plus lots of links to other brain injury sites.  There's the Brain (Injury) Associations of BC and the  Brain Injury Association of South Vancouver Island (Formerly Vancouver Island Head Injury Association).

There are lots of other sites.  One, Neuroanatomy/pathology on the Internet, has dozens of links to anatomy sites. Brainlinks from University of Bergen (in German, but mostly English Links) has atlases, images, tutorials, and more.  Neuropsychology central has links to anatomy as well as to neuropsychological tests and other items of interest to neuropsychologists.  The University of Utah medical School has an Internet Pathology Course with a Tutorial on Neuroanatomy that shows anatomical locations on real (dead) tissue (not for the squeamish). More detail than most people need, but it can be helpful as self test.  The Human Brain: Dissections of the Real Brain provides many detailed views of the brain with drawings beside them labeling may parts.

BRAIN MAP. This article describes some of the common effects of damage to specific areas of the brain. Basic anatomy but comprehensive in terms of disorders that result from Brain injury.
  THE WHOLE BRAIN ATLAS. Various brain scans - Real (2D) images. Tremendous brain atlas, visuals are terrific, the depth is superb. From Harvard, and it is worthy of Harvard. This is the web at its best; very technical but you can learn at your own pace, through text and visuals.
THE ANATOMY OF A HEAD INJURY. This article describes what happens to the brain as a result of trauma. (All text, no pictures)
  MCH NEUROLOGY WEB FORUM. This is an attempt to start an interactive, online discussion about various Neurology-related topics. On going, unscheduled chats on a number of neurology related topics. User friendly page. (You'll need to click the link on the first page that pops up.)

1. Directions and Planes of Section (From Neuroscience for Kids)  (Good basic info.  Game is good for name recognition, not for understanding)
2. Neuroanatomy lecture (PDF) A different lecture (PDF) on anatomy (By Dawei Dong). Good info at good level. 

  Roots of Neuroscience Terms Knowing where the terms come from can help you remember what they mean.

  Memory Loss and the Brain Newsletter An informative newsletter published 2-3 times a year with practical news and tips for improving memory or preventing its decline.  Valuable for students, people with brain injuries, and people who are aging. (Like who isn't!)

Other interesting sites

Can Neurobiology Teach us Anything about Consciousness- An essay by  "Neuro-Philosopher" Patricia Smith Churchland about why it is worth studying the nervous system to understand behaviour, cognition and even consciousness.


"We only use 10% of our brains" myth.  For information on this myth, click here.


Is That a Pilot in Your Pocket? (Same story but with cool links to other stories)
(25,000 neurons in a dish control a flight simulator)

  Transforming Thoughts Into Deeds Jan. 14, 2004 Now you can jack into the internet (almost).

Changing Dogma: New Tricks for the Old Brain (Neurogenesis in Adult Humans)  Neuroscience for kids site. Good explanations, with links to more complex material.

(Nov '07) A Hypothesis About the Role of Adult Neurogenesis in Hippocampal Function (2004 review)

(Aug '05) Halle Berry and Jennifer Aniston cells in the human hippocampus.  Nature, June 2005  Adds new spice to the debate about "grandmother" cells.

(Jan 2006)  How media depictions of Coma recovery mislead the public: Newspaper article "Little sign of brain activity in soap-opera coma cases" or

(without the cleavage) the scientific publication "Epidemiology and prognosis of coma in daytime television dramas" (British Medical Journal).


(May 06) The Brain from Top to Bottom  Click the picture of Da Vinci's "Man" and choose your level of knowledge (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and the organizational level you are interested in (5 levels from molecular to social).

Anatomy and Function 

by Level of Organization

(May 06) Brain Functions and Map. Click here for a more detailed look at functional anatomy.  Good for 215A, 323, 415B and others)

(Feb 07) www.wiredtowinthemovie.com/ (Interactive Tour De Brain)

(May 07) Bike Helmets save Lives (or the CNN link)

(April 08) Internet Stroke Center, with several interesting subsections including 

(April 2008) Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight: A description of what it felt like to have a stroke by a neuroanatomist.  Very interesting (though I'm not sure that someone who studies left-brain, right-brain would agree with her description of their relative functions)
(Note: Does not work with Firefox)

(April 2008) Michael Shermer: Why people believe strange things This is a general discussion of the difference between science and pseudo-science (like crop circles and intelligent design).  Good for any scientist - established or in-training.
Note: Does not work with Firefox)

(October 2008) How Comas WorkGood overview of comas, the brain and how they are rated, for non-scientists.

(October 2008)Memories aren't made of this: amnesia at the moviesHow Hollywood misrepresents traumatically induced amnesia.

(November 2009) 3D Brain Model http://www.g2conline.org/2022 (Also available as App for IPod/iTouch)

(Mar 2010) "Put Some ACh into it" A video-rap about the autonomic nervous system.  Note: Language is appropriate and accurate but if offended by rap videos, please do not view.
(Oct 11) More rap music: Cranial Nerve Song

(Nov 2010) Wanting, Liking and motivation in Video Games. Applications to Busuiness, Education and Government. (16 min talk on TED.com)

(Dec 2010) Cool pictures of neurons from New York Times

(Dec 2010) Great image of hipocampus , in situ, in rotating skull.

How big is that? How small is that? The scale of the universe. (From smaller than microscopic to bigger than astronomical) (Amazing web site)

(Oct 2011) "The Brain that Changes Itself"  The Nature of Things - 45 min show on Neuroplasticity.

(May 2012) Paralyzed woman moves robot with her brain, using implanted electrodes.

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Contacting me

E-mail: skelton @ UVic . ca (remove spaces, eh?)

Web address: You are here already! To come back, come to http://web.uvic.ca/psyc/skelton

Office phone: 250-721-8711    Fax: 250-721-8929

Office Hours:


Mailing Address:

Department of Psychology

University of Victoria

Box 3050

Victoria, BC

V8W 3P5

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Personal Information

I AM CanadianI am married with 2 children and now 1 grrandchild. I have a number of hobbies and interests, including tennis, computer games, and camping. I have been hairier. (see picture of me in 1975)Me in 1975.

I am past president of the Vancouver Island Head Injury Society - now called the Victoria Brain Injury Society (VBIS)
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Last Revised: 09/09/2013. For corrections please contact skelton @ uvic.ca (remove spaces)

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