Mark Stokes: Poignant Twitter post from scientist before death

Mark Stokes


Mark Stoke

Mark Stokes is a scientist whose recent Twitter post about his final days before dying went viral.

December 18, 2022 Stokes announced on Twitter that he had only days to live. His post has more than 777,000 likes, with many people from celebrities to non-celebrities praising his composure and grace in the face of impending death. The cause of death will be cancer.

His Twitter page describes him as: “Scientist, dad, not a robot (immaculate CAPTCHA track record).” Stokes was until recently head of the attention group at the Oxford Department of Experimental Psychology, according to a magazine article highlighting his achievements.

Stokes is Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Oxford University. “Mark’s research examines the role of selective attention in cognition, working memory, and flexible decision-making. Mark is particularly interested in how these core cognitive functions are integrated for goal-directed adaptive behavior.” explains his biography.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Stokes wrote: “I’m leaving this crazy world with lots of love in my heart”

in the tweetStokes revealed he had just days to live after battling cancer.

“Hi guys, I’m afraid it’s time to say goodbye,” he wrote.

“Leaving not just Twitter, but the whole show. I have been battling cancer for the last 2 years but now I only have a few days left. Thank you wonderful people, I leave this crazy world with a lot of love in my heart ❤️.”

2. Stokes is described as having “remarkably outsized influence on many research areas in cognitive neuroscience”.

According to the Journal of Cognitive NeuroscienceMark Stokes has had “a remarkably outsized impact on many areas of research in cognitive neuroscience” over the past 20 years.

The article states that as an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne in Jason Mattingley’s lab, he “contributed to several studies that advanced the use of TMS to study human cognition…although many of these arguably address fundamental questions about Attracting attention the most consistent of his contributions from this period was methodological, 2005 ‘Simple metric for scaling motor threshold based on scalp-cortex distance: application to studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation’ (Stokes et al., 2005).”

Google Scholar “shows that although the citation count for this introduction of the ‘Stokes Method’ initially peaked in 2011, its year-over-year histogram has remained stubbornly elevated, reaching additional modes in 2017, 2019 and now again in 2022 ( for which it has already eclipsed the previously most frequently cited calendar year with the 9-month mark),” the journal article reads.

3. People praised Stokes’ “bravery” and said it “appeals to the deep humanity in all of us”

Journalist Yashar Ali wrote, “Mark, as someone who just discovered you and your account, I wanted to thank you for your generosity and courage in sharing this. You may precede us, but after seeing how you have interacted with the world, I can say that you will remain in the hearts of many. Including mine.”

wrote dr Jennifer Cassidy“So many don’t know you. But so many of us wish we had known you. Words are few at this time. But it is clear that so many souls here, myself included, wish you a peaceful crossing. Your glory and influence will reign here and I wish you nothing but peace.”

A Twitter follower wrote, “I don’t know you, but your message speaks to the deep humanity in all of us. May you be surrounded by love and peace. May your journey end in enlightenment. May your family have strength and lasting memories of your wonderful time with them. Om Shanti.”

Other people offered religious messages.

Katie Couric was among them who hooked up. “Dear Mark, My friend @DavePriceTV referred me here. Thank you for sharing your journey and reminding us of our common humanity. I wish you peace and liberation. And that you are surrounded by love. ❤️🙏🏻🦋,” she wrote.

4. Stokes has done research at both Cambridge and Oxford

The journal article states that Mark Stokes moved to Cambridge University for his PhD, where he was “among the first to apply multivariate decoding analysis to high-level neuroimaging studies of cognition” in the lab of John Duncan.

He then moved to Oxford “to work first as a research assistant at Kia Nobre and later to set up his own independent group and mentor an impressive group of trainees.”

Describing his work at Oxford, the article says: “During his time at Oxford, he played an important role in bridging research into memory and attention by promoting a functional representation of working memory in which future-oriented memory traces are informatively and computationally tuned for interacting with incoming sensory signals to drive adaptive behavior.”

The article continued:

Additionally, and perhaps most influentially, shortly after arriving at Oxford, Mark Stokes turned his analytical acumen to the development of a then-novel approach for the “retrospective multivariate” analysis of data from single-unit extracellular recordings of conscious, behaving animals.

As late as the 2000s decade, most neurophysiological studies in nonhuman primates used the approach of first isolating a single neuron during chronic recording sessions and then recording from that neuron while the animal performed the behavior of interest and then repeating this process over hundreds of recording sessions and then average the results over similarly tuned neurons.

Stokes’ insight was that one could learn more from such datasets by treating them not as a collection of univariate observations but as a single multivariate observation, actually pretending that these hundreds of units were all recorded simultaneously. The results were stunningly revealing.

5. Stokes shared photos of sunsets and thanked colleagues in other recent tweets

The latest tweets from Stokes Before the viral message, there were posts thanking colleagues for their input and kind words.

He also shared people’s tweets about their work and photos posted of sunsets.

“18 years ago I showed up at this gate with a suitcase and vague ideas for a degree. It’s always fun to go back and explore the old haunts,” he wrote with a post in August 2022.

Some posts show him traveling with small children.

CONTINUE READING: The University of Idaho students who were murdered in Moscow, Idaho Mark Stokes: Poignant Twitter post from scientist before death

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