Tirso RJ Gonzalez Alam

PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging

University of York


I am a Research Associate at in the Department of Psychology of the University of York and York Neuroimaging Centre working with Professor Beth Jefferies. I received my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging from the University of York (2020), and my MSc in Clinical Neuropsychology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. I am interested in understanding how large-scale cortical networks and intrinsic connectivity gradients organise to give rise to semantic cognition and language through the interaction of control and default mode networks. My main research tools have included fMRI (both task-based and resting-state), gradient decomposition, multivariate analyses, DTI tractography, TMS, cognitive paradigms, automated meta-analytical techniques and cognitive decoding.

As a general approach to research, I am keen on promoting open science, replicability and data-sharing best practices with my future work, pushing for greater transparency, integration and replicability of results across labs in the world. I would like to do further work with fMRI and TMS, as well as expanding to MEG to probe the temporal resolution and causal dynamics of semantic processing. I would be especially interested in joining a research environment in which I can expand my methodological and analysis toolbox and solve more complex questions through collaborative research.

I have worked as a neuroscience research fellow, lecturer and clinical neuropsychologist in three countries over the last 10 years. Born in Merida (Yucatan, Mexico), I received my undegraduate degree in Psychology by Universidad Anahuac, and went on to do an integrated MSc, combining two clinical internships in hospitals with Masters studies in Neuropsychology at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. After developing an interest in language neuroscience, I was awarded an international rotation grant as a result of outstanding clinical work during my internships to Centro Internacional de Restauracion Neurologica in Havana, Cuba.

Having returned to Mexico after the international rotation and receiving my MSc degree, I was offered a research fellowship at my Alma Mater, the school of Psychology of Universidad Anahuac Mayab. There, I started the Cognitive and Clinical Neuropsychology Research Group, where my research focussed on hemispheric differences in language processing, measured mainly through behavioural methods such as dichotic listening, semantic priming and divided visual fields. During this post I accepted a lectureship in the school of Psychology, where I mainly thaught psychology of language, research methods, experimental psychology, neuropsychology, neuroanatomy and statistics.

After three projects in the research fellowship, my interests shifted to the neural bases of semantics; this led me to pursue a PhD on the subject, which I recently graduated. Under the supervision of Professors Beth Jefferies and Jonny Smallwood in the Department of Psychology of University of York and York Neuroimaging Centre, I worked on hemispheric differences in semantic cognition using fMRI as my main neuroimaging tool. My PhD thesis investigated differences in intrinsic connectivity of key regions of the semantic cognition network across the hemispheres and their behavioural consequences, using a combination of resting-state and task-based fMRI, large-scale cortical network interactions, individual differences approaches, automated meta-analytical techniques and cognitive decoding. The results of the PhD work, both for my thesis and in collaborations with the broader research group can be consulted in my recent publications

On my free time, I like to learn programming languages andimprove on scripting through personal projects and work in visual arts projects as a hobby: ( VJing, glitch and algorithmic art, film criticism [in Spanish]), reading, listening to podcasts and playing videogames (you can find me on Blizzard [tarantirso#1468], Steam [441497605], Xbox [tarantirso] or MTG Arena [tarantirso#98874]).

Download my CV or email me at tirso.gonzalez.alam@york.ac.uk


  • Brain Connectivity
  • Semantic Cognition
  • Hemispheric Differences
  • fMRI (resting-state and task-based)
  • Programming in Neuroscience


  • PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging (United Kingdom), 2020

    University of Yorkk

  • MSc in Clinical Neuropsychology

    Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (Mexico City)

  • Internship in Clinical Neuropsychology

    Centro Internacional de Restauracion Neurologica (Havana, Cuba)








Data analysis

FSL/FMRIB Software Library

Scanner Operator

GE 3T Signa Excite HDX

Neuropsychological assessment

Psychological Experiments



Version control

Recent Publications

(2023). Individual word representations dissociate from linguistic context along a cortical unimodal to heteromodal gradient. bioRxiv [preprint].

PDF Dataset DOI

(2021). A tale of two gradients: differences between the left and right hemispheres predict semantic cognition. Brain Structure and Function.

PDF Dataset DOI



Statistics Tutor and consultant

University of York, Maths SKills Centre and Academic Support Office

Jan 2018 – Jan 2019 York, UK
  • Served as tutor in statistics to undergraduate, masters and PhD students in University of York’s Maths Skills Centre.
  • Designed, implemented and interpreted statistical analyses of student experience surveys (n > 1,500) over a period of two years to help guide decisions in education

Graduate Teaching Assistant

University of York, Department of Psychology & York Neuroimaging Centre

Oct 2016 – Jan 2019 York, UK
  • Delivered tutorials and provided support with teaching in research methods, brain & behaviour, perception & cogntion and language & development in the undergraduate Psychology Programme.
  • Provided support with teaching Programming in Neuroimaging (Python) for the masters programme in York Neuroimaging Centre.
  • Supervised and provided feedback for new Graduate Teaching Assistants.

PhD Student

University of York, Department of Psychology & York Neuroimaging Centre

Oct 2015 – Feb 2020 York, UK

Designed, implemented, analysed and wrote up three research projects, disseminating their results as publications and presentations at international conferences, while collaborating in several other projects in the broader research group:

  • Hemispheric differences in connectivity of semantic cognition regions
  • Relationship between domain-general inhibition and semantic control
  • Lateralisation patterns in semantic cognition in anterior temporal lobe

Supervised 10 students’ data collection for dissertation and taught in 17 courses at the MSc and undergraduate levels.


Research Fellow

Universidad Anahuac Mayab, Escuela de Psicologia

Aug 2009 – Jul 2015 Merida, Yucatan. Mexico.

Designed, implemented, analysed and secured funding for three major research projects in cognitive and clinical neuropsychology:

  • Psychometric properties of dichotic listening in determining laterality of speech dominance
  • Neuropsychologic deficits in morbid chronic obesity
  • Hemispheric differences in semantic priming through divided visual fields

Supervised 17 undergraduate students’ research as principal investigator. Helped consolidate a collegiate body in Health science with researchers in the schools of Medicine and Nutrition Science. Organised national symposia and conferences in Neuropsychology. Helped start the Mexican Journal of Neuropsychology in collaboration with the Mexican Association of Neuropsychology.


Associate Lecturer

Universidad Anahuac Mayab (Escuela de Psicologia) and Red de Universidades Anahuac

Aug 2009 – Jul 2015 Merida, Yucatan. Mexico.

Designed, lectured, assessed and tutored 19 undergraduate and postgraduate courses in research methods, statistics, experimental psychology, clinical and cognitive neuropsychology, cognitive psychology and language development and disorders. These courses were mainly delivered in the schools of Psychology and Medicine in Anahuac Mayab (Yucatan), and as visiting lecturer in Universidad Marista (Yucatan), Facultad de Psicologia UNAM, Universidad Anahuac Mexico Sur and Universidad Latina (Mexico City). A comprehensive list of teaching can be consulted here.

Helped develop and design curricula for Psychopedagogy, a new undergraduate degree in Anahuac Mayab University’s Department of Psychology, and for the Neuropsychology Practicum in Anahuac Mayab’s Teaching Hospital.


Clinical Neuropsychologist

National and international hospitals, high specialty centres and private practice

Aug 2006 – Aug 2014 Mexico City, Yucatan and Havana, Cuba
  • Performed clinical neuropsychological assessment as intern and resident in Instituto Nacional de Neurologia y Neurocirugia under the supervision of Alma Rosa Martinez, working with epilepsy patients (especially in the context of language assessment and temporal lobectomies) and in Hospital General de Mexico under David Trejo, performing neuropsychological assesment of cognitive functions as part of a neurosurgical team.
  • Worked in the Centro Internacional de Restauracion Neurologica (Havana, Cuba) after being awarded an international rotation grant due to outstanding work in clinical practice during the MSc programme, performing neuropsychological assessment of language problems and recovery after stroke, and a rotation in 10 clinics of this Centre.
  • Founded the clinical neuropsychology practice in Anahuac Mayab’s Teaching Hospital (Yucatan, Mexico), which implied designing a service model, implementing it in hospital operation, compiling a library of neuropsychological tests for assessments, preparing and supervising interns and undergraduate practicioners.
  • Established a private practice of neuropsychological assessment in Yucatan and Mexico City.


Obtained Global Talent Visa

Obtained the UK Global Talent visa (granted to individuals with exceptional talent or leaders in their field) to work on the ERC funded project FLEXSEM-771863.

Passed PhD Viva With No Corrections

My external (Michel Thiebaut de Schotten) and internal (Rob Jenkins) examiners agreed to grant me the honour of passing without corrections, upon review of my thesis and its verbal defence, due to the quality of the work presented.

Secured Competitive International Full PhD Scholarship

Full scholarship for PhD project ‘Interhemispheric Differences in Semantic Cognition’ (£87,760).

Appointed Member of National Academic Committee for Assessment in Psychology

Appointed Member of the National Academic Committee, tasked with designing items for the Standardised National Psychology Examination.

Appointed Scientific Editor

Appointed full member of the Association and offered position of responsibility as editor of their scientific journal.

Current Work

Understanding the impact of stroke in the cortical gradients of brain organisation

The verbal and non-verbal sequelae of stroke on cognition are well documented; however, much less is known regarding why apparently similar lesions give rise to disparate patterns of impairment. This could be the consequence of disturbing sites that are topographically close, but very distant in a manifold obtained through dimensionality reduction of whole-brain patterns of high-dimensional intrinsic connectivity. The dimension that explains the maximum variance in this manifold (gradient 1) shows a gradient of transitions between sensory and default mode networks, gradient 2 between sensory and visual cortices, and gradient 3 between default mode and multiple demand networks. In this project, in collaboration with Professor Cathy Price from UCL we explore if this gradient framework can give rise to more comprehensive explanations of the patterns of deficit observed in stroke. Using three separate samples of stroke patients (combined n > 160) we apply gradient decomposition to their resting-state data and explore the differences between the patients and a control group in three-dimensional gradient space, and how these explain the deficits seen in a variety of neuropsychological tests.

Understanding how laterality of lesions contributes to distinct patterns of deficit through connectivity changes using iTMS

Despite the fact that the majority of connections in the brain are strongly homotopical and mostly symmetrical when measured through intrinsic connectivity, neuropsychology reveals that damage to the left and right hemispheres gives rise to strikingly different clusters of symptoms. The reasons for these differences are not well understood. In this project (in collaboration with Dr David Pitcher) we are using inhibitory Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to transiently disturb sites that are important for language processing and face perception in the left and right hemispheres, respectively, and documenting the changes in intrinsic connectivity in each site’s profile of large-scale cortical networks preference, as well as their position in a three-dimensional gradient space of similarity of connectivity. Simultaneously, we are examining the behavioural effects of TMS stimulation to language and face perception tasks and relating it to the disturbances in connectivity, with the aim of better understanding how the changes in connectivity generated by lesions give rise to distinct syndromes in the left and right hemispheres.

Do segregated but interacting visual-DMN pathways subserve distinct memory domains?

The Default Mode Network (DMN) is full of apparent contradictions: it is often task negative but at the same time supports semantic and spatial cognition; it is implicated in internal, perceptually-decoupled states, yet the semantic and spatial tasks it supports are visually-mediated. This network shows distinct subsystems whose role in distinct memory domains is not sufficiently understood, as is their intrinsic connectivity architecture in relation to perceptual systems. In this project, in collaboration with Professor Jonny Smallwood, we are using a combination of univariate, connectivity and multivariate fMRI analyses across three samples (combined N > 250) to investigate the architecture connecting visual cortex to DMN, and the engagement of visual-DMN pathways in memory-guided decisions across two domains (semantic and spatial). We are exploring whether there are segregated pathways that allow distinct visual-DMN interactions to support separate cognitive domains, and if so, how do these interact? How do our representations of objects and the locations they’re embedded in become integrated?

Hemispheric differences in structural connectivity across the temporal lobes and their relationship to semantic cognition

Previous work has shown that left posterior middle temporal gyrus regions are important for the controlled retrieval of aspects of semantic representations that are relevant to the current context/goals, and that these regions seem to form a left-lateralised network with other regions in inferior frontal gyrus. This project, in collaboration with Professor Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, aims to characterise if differences in the architecture of white matter tracts and their projections across the left and right cerebral hemispheres contribute to the organisation of a left-lateralised network involved in semantic control, as has been observed using intrinsic connectivity. Another region of interest due to its implications in storing semantic representations is the anterior temporal lobe. This region, despite being bilateral, shows subtle differences in the type of content it prefers in each hemisphere. In this project we are examining hemispheric differences in the structural connectivity of the anterior temporal lobe to investigate a potential structural basis of these differences.