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Dr Harry Witchel

Harry Witchel web

Dr Harry Witchel (PhD)

Senior Lecturer in Physiology
T: +44 (0)1273 873549
Location: Room 204 Trafford Centre for Medical Research, BSMS, University of Sussex, BN1 9RY

Other roles: Intercalation Lead
Areas of expertise: Non-verbal behaviour; motion capture; engagement; psychobiology; soundscape
Research area: Neuroscience


  • Senior Lecturer, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • Senior Research Fellow, Department of Physiology, University of Bristol
  • Visiting Professorship, Institute of Pathology, University of Florence (Italy)-hERG cell biology
  • Research Fellow, Molecular pharmacology of cardiac ion channels, Department of Physiology, University of Bristol
  • Research Associate, Cloning rabbit cardiac ion channels, Dr. Jules Hancox, Department of Physiology, University of Bristol
  • Research Associate, Cloning rabbit cardiac ion channels, Dr. Allan Levi, Department of Physiology, University of Bristol
  • Research Associate, Molecular Biology of Invertebrate Ion channels, Dr. Robert Meech, Department of Physiology, University of Bristol


  • PhD (Physiology - Anatomy), University of California at Berkeley
  • AB (Physics), Columbia University, New York


Research focus

Harry is Discipline Leader in Physiology, and uses time series analysis to correlate physiological and motion metrics with physiological, psychological or pathological (disease) states. Work in the laboratory focuses on the triangulation of behavioural data, physical properties and subjective reporting.

  1. We use wearable sensors, motion capture and time series analysis to determine the cognitive, emotional and behavioural correlates of engagement and disengagement in response to different psychologically relevant stimuli (e.g. music and soundscape). We are currently developing devices for the measurement of subconscious postural micromovements and also for the synchronisation of tools to measure these.
  2. We use wearable inertial sensors to develop metrics of ambulatory function/dysfunction, for example in multiple sclerosis.

Current research

  1. Developing motion analysis techniques to demonstrate differences in physiology and in subconscious, non-instrumental postural micromovements based on different stimuli. We focus on seated healthy volunteers, in order to detect subtle (mm) changes over time in response to discrete, two-minute, homogeneous stimuli including games, quizzes, and films. This kind of stimulus allows us to make clear conclusions about the emotion elicited by the stimulus, as two minutes is long enough to become bored, but not long enough to re-engage. We also measure postural surrogates of fatigue and arousal.
  2. We use dynamic time warping of inertial measurements for walking, and also mathematical models for static balance, to make metrics of disability that are objective.

Active collaborations

  • Prof Nachiappan Chockalingam, Staffordshire University
  • Dr. Waqar Rashid, Hurstwood Park Neuroscience Centre
  • Prof Jochen Klucken and Bjoern Eskofier, University of Erlangen
  • Prof Mark Miodownik, University College London

Current/recent laboratory funding/grants

Harry has an academic interest in drug safety, and his successful grant proposals have thus far received £869,960. He has received grant funding from the British Heart Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the BBSRC, Pfizer, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).


Teaching focus

Physiology (cardiovascular, ECG, arrhythmogenesis, neuroscience, ions and action potentials)

Teaching responsibilities

  • Module Leader for Heart, Lungs and Blood
  • Deputy Phase 1 Leader (Years 1 & 2)

At BSMS Harry has an extensive teaching and administration load; he serves as Intercalation Lead, he is the Module Leader for Module 103 (Heart Lungs and Blood), previous to that he was the Module Leader for Module 202 (Neuroscience and Behaviour) from 2009-2011, and he has been the Discipline Leader in Physiology from 2008 to the present. As a module leader, he manages ~50 instructors contributing to ~80 learning sessions, he leads an annual Module Review process, and he manages the assembly of a wide range of assessments for students that are standard set by expert committees and must meet the national standards of the General Medical Council. He teaches over 60 hours of structured contact per year in divergent subjects including cardiac, vascular, respiratory, neuroscience, gastrointestinal, blood, skeletal muscle, bone and general physiology. He is also the External Examiner for two other UK medical schools.

Selected publications

What does not happen: quantifying embodied engagement using NIMI and self-adaptors. Witchel HJ, Westling C, Tee J, Healy A, Needham R, Chockalingam N (2014).  Participations Journal of Audience and Reception Studies. 11(1): Article 18.

A time series feature to detect two types of boredom when motion capture is a surrogate for engagement in seated volunteers interacting with computer-based stimuli. Witchel HJ, Westling C, Tee J, Healy A, Needham R, Chockalingam N (2014).  ECCE 2014 Proceedings of the 32nd European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics.

Automated bobbing and phase analysis to measure walking entrainment to music. Lopez-Mendez A, Westling CEI, Emonet R, Easteal M, Lavia L, Witchel HJ, Odobez J-M (2014). ICIP 2014 International Conference on Image Processing. Paris

The perception of materials through oral sensation. Howes PD, Wongsriruksa S, Laughlin Z, Witchel HJ and Miodownik M (2014).  PLoS One, 9(8), e105035.
Urban Sound Planning in Brighton and Hove. Easteal, M., Bannister, S., Kang, J., Aletta, F., Lavia, L., & Witchel, H. (2014). In Forum Acusticum 2014. Polish Acoustical Society Krakow, Poland.

The human ether-à-go-go related gene (hERG) K+ channel blockade by the investigative Selective-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor CONA-437: limited dependence on S6 aromatic residues. Alexandrou AJ., Milnes JT, Sun SZ, Fermini B, Kim SC, Jenkinson S, Witchel HJ, Hancox JC, Leaney JL (2014). J Physiol Pharmacol, 65(4), 511-523.

Engagement: the Inputs and the Outputs. Witchel HJ (2013).  Proceedings of Inputs-Outputs: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Engagement in HCI and Performance. ACM: New York.  Article 1.  DOI: 10.1145/2557595.2557596

Inputs and Outputs: Engagement in Digital Media from the Maker's Perspective.  Witchel HJ, Westling CEI, (2013).  Excursions, 4(1).

Discrete three-minute computerized stimuli elicit cyclical changes in subconscious postural parameters in seated healthy volunteers: fatigue vs. boredom. Witchel HJ, Lavia L, Westling C, Healy A, Needham R, Chockalingam N (2013), ECCE 2013 - European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics (Toulouse).

Using body language indicators for assessing the effects of soundscape quality on individuals. Witchel HJ, Lavia L, Westling C, Healy A, Needham R, Chockalingam N (2013). AIA-DAGA (Merano).

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