Karl John Friston
12 July 1959
|Education||Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (BA, 1980)|
|Known for||Statistical parametric mapping, voxel-based morphometry, dynamic causal modelling, free energy principle|
|Spouse(s)||Ann Elisabeth Leonard|
|Institutions||University College London|
Karl John Friston FRS, FMedSci, FRSB, is a British neuroscientist at University College London and an authority on brain imaging. He gained reputation as the main proponent of the free energy principle and predictive coding theory.
Friston studied natural sciences (physics and psychology) at the University of Cambridge in 1980, and completed his medical studies at King's College Hospital, London.
Friston subsequently qualified under the Oxford University Rotational Training Scheme in Psychiatry, and is now a Professor of Neuroscience at University College London. He is currently a Wellcome Trust Principal Fellow and Scientific Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging. He also holds an honorary consultant post at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. He invented statistical parametric mapping: SPM is an international standard for analysing imaging data and rests on the general linear model and random field theory (developed with Keith Worsley). In 1994 his group developed voxel-based morphometry. VBM detects differences in neuroanatomy and is used clinically and as a surrogate in genetic studies.
These technical contributions were motivated by schizophrenia research and theoretical studies of value-learning (with Gerry Edelman). In 1995, this work was formulated as the disconnection hypothesis of schizophrenia (with Chris Frith). In 2003, he invented dynamic causal modelling (DCM), which is used to infer the architecture of distributed systems like the brain. Mathematical contributions include variational (generalised) filtering and dynamic expectation maximisation (DEM), which are Variational Bayesian methods for time-series analysis. Friston currently works on models of functional integration in the human brain and the principles that underlie neuronal interactions. His main contribution to theoretical neurobiology is a variational free energy principle (active inference in the Bayesian brain). According to Google Scholar Karl Friston's h-index is 232.
In 2020 he became a member of Independent SAGE, an independent alternative to the official COVID-19 pandemic government advisory body Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. He has worked on applying his dynamic causal modelling technique and an alternative approach to modelling the pandemic. On 7 April 2021 The Daily Telegraph publicised his work as predicting the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity on 12 April 2021, with a significantly different outcome to other academic pandemic models.
In 1996, Friston received the first Young Investigators Award in Human Brain Mapping, and was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1999) in recognition of contributions to the bio-medical sciences. In 2000 he was President of the international Organization for Human Brain Mapping. In 2003 he was awarded the Minerva Golden Brain Award and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006 and received a Collège de France Medal in 2008. In 2011 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of York and became a Fellow of the Society of Biology. His nomination for the Royal Society reads
Karl Friston pioneered and developed the single most powerful technique for analysing the results of brain imaging studies and unravelling the patterns of cortical activity and the relationship of different cortical areas to one another. Currently over 90% of papers published in brain imaging use his method (SPM or Statistical Parametric Mapping) and this approach is now finding more diverse applications, for example, in the analysis of EEG and MEG data. His method has revolutionised studies of the human brain and given us profound insights into its operations. None has had as major an influence as Friston on the development of human brain studies in the past twenty-five years.
In 2016 he was ranked No. 1 by Semantic Scholar in the list of top 10 most influential neuroscientists.