Michael Barnett-Cowan

Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences

Michael Barnett-Cowan is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences. As a cognitive and systems neuroscientist with a proven track record of investigating how multisensory information impacts spatial and temporal perception, decision-making, and human movement,  Dr. Barnett-Cowan collaborates extensively with many members of the Games Institute.Micheal Barnett-Cowan profile image

Dr. Barnett-Cowan’s research has led to ground breaking discoveries about the vestibular system and its integration with other sensory information. Through collaborations with academic and industry partners, he has driven innovation in the fields of virtual reality and motion simulation. Dr. Barnett-Cowan has also developed cutting-edge techniques, including psychophysical, computational modeling, neuroimaging, and neurostimulation methods, which are now used to measure perceived spatial orientation in complex multisensory environments such as upset recovery in aviation and spatial disorientation in low-gravity.

Dr. Barnett-Cowan’s research has helped to identify key markers of disease and test the efficacy of therapeutic and rehabilitation efforts to combat disorientation, especially in differently-abled populations. His discoveries about vestibular perception have also led to practical applications in the calibration of virtual reality environments and motion simulators. His current research program focuses on understanding human perception, cognition and action in real and virtual environments, as well as human-ai interactions. Dr. Barnett-Cowan’s lab uses cutting-edge techniques such as motion simulation, motion capture, 3D body scanning, gaming engines, realistic avatars, to explore human-AI integration to create immersive and interactive experiments that simulate complex multisensory scenarios that may form the metaverse. His team is also now using script prompt engineering to generate novel stimuli and tasks for their participants using AI generators such as generative pre-trained transformers and applications such as Midjourney and Stable Diffusion. In so doing, Dr. Barnett-Cowan’s research aims to reveal the neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying human performance and adaptation in the metaverse, as well as the potential benefits and challenges of human-AI integration for learning, creativity, and well-being.

Contact Information:


519-888-4567, ext. 39177
BMH 3026

Michael's Kinesiology profile

Personal website

University of Waterloo