Michael Barnett-Cowan

Associate Professor; Associate Chair of Graduate Studies
Michael Barnett-Cowan


Office: BMH 3033

Phone: 519-888-4567, ext. 49177

Email: mbc@uwaterloo.ca


Remote video URL

Research interests

The brain receives information about the environment from all the senses. To efficiently interact with the environment, the brain must make sense of this converging information in order to form a reliable and accurate percept with which to guide decision-making and behaviour. I am the Director of the Multisensory Brain and Cognition Lab, which seeks to determine how the brain integrates multisensory information. As a cognitive and systems neuroscientist, I investigate how multisensory processing impacts spatial and temporal perception, decision-making and human movement in real, virtual and artificial intelligence created environments. My 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. My discoveries about vestibular (balance) perception have also led to practical applications in the calibration of virtual reality environments and motion simulators.

Graduate supervision and student opportunities

  • Research volunteer
  • KIN 391 Research Assistant (any discipline can take this for course credit)
  • Undergraduate thesis (KIN 431/432)
  • MSc thesis
  • MSc thesis Aeronautics
  • MKin Practicum
  • PhD thesis
  • PhD thesis Aging, Health and Well Being
  • PhD thesis Aeronautics
  • Research assistant/coordinator

Please email me to discuss current available opportunities.

Graduate studies application details

Teaching, expertise, tools and technologies

  • Psychophysics
  • Sensory assessment
  • Virtual reality
  • Augmented reality
  • Mixed reality
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Motion simulation
  • Flight simulation
  • Motion capture
  • Eye and head movement
  • Brain imaging and stimulation (EEG/ERP, TMS,tDCS)
  • Aging


KIN 356: Sensory Systems Neuroscience

KIN 654: Instrumentation in Neuroscience Research

KIN 686: Human Computer Interaction


BA Experimental Psychology (with Honours), Univeristy of Guelph

MA Experimental Psychology, York Univeristy

PhD Experimental Psychology, York University 

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, University of Tübingen

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Brain and Mind Institute, Western University

Selected publications

See Google Scholar for full list of publications.

Basharat, A., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2023). Assessing the Effects of Exercise, Cognitive Demand, and Rest on Audiovisual Multisensory Processing in Older Adults: A Pilot Study. Multisensory Research, 36(3), 213-262.

Martin Calderon, C., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2022). The influence of body orientation relative to gravity on egocentric distance estimates in virtual reality. In ACM Symposium on Applied Perception 2022 (pp. 1-13).

Chung, W., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2022). Influence of Sensory Conflict on Perceived Timing of Passive Rotation in Virtual Reality. Multisensory Research, 1(aop), 1-23.

Muñoz, J., Mehrabi, S., Li, Y., Basharat, A., Middleton, L. E., Cao, S., Barnett-Cowan, M. & Boger, J. (2022). Immersive virtual reality Exergames for persons living with dementia: user-centered design study as a multistakeholder team during the COVID-19 pandemic. JMIR Serious Games, 10(1), e29987.

Schettler, A., Holstead, I., Turri, J., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2020). Visual self-motion feedback affects the sense of self in virtual reality. Multisensory Research, 34(3), 323-336.

Weech, S., Wall, T., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2020). Reduction of cybersickness during and immediately following noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation. Experimental Brain Research, 238(2), 427-437.

Basharat, A., Mahoney, J. R., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2019). Temporal metrics of multisensory processing change in the elderly. Multisensory Research, 32(8), 715-744.

Weech, S., Kenny, S., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2019). Presence and cybersickness in virtual reality are negatively related: a review. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 158.

Bansal, A., Weech, S., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2019). Movement-contingent time flow in virtual reality causes temporal recalibration. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-13.

Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349(6251), aac4716.