Thursday, 29 September 2016

Two PhD students submitted their theses

Two SCAN PhD students from the FNL, Patrick Cooper and Alex Conley, recently submitted their PhD theses.  Both students were supervised by Frini Karayanidis and submitted their theses within 24 hours of each other  – 12th and 13th Sept respectively.  A huge effort by everyone.  Alex has been offered a postdoc at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  Patrick will be leading the EEG program for the Priority Research Centre in Stroke and Brain Injury.  

Patrick Cooper – thesis title “Oscillatory mechanisms of goal-directed control: A central role of frontoparietal theta”

Adjusting our behaviours and thoughts in line with current contextual demands is a key part of daily living. Decades of neuroimaging have reached a consensus that these top-down, cognitive control processes rely on extensive frontoparietal networks. Yet, how information is adjusted within these networks is still poorly understood. That is, we know where in the brain control arises from but not strictly how. My thesis explored the role of low frequency oscillations (known as theta) within frontoparietal networks during cognitive control tasks. I report novel evidence that theta oscillations are ubiquitous with cognitive control, facilitating communication between frontal and parietal cortices, promoting integration of distinct neural frequencies and oscillate over both short and long time-scales to achieve flexible control over behaviour. These factors suggest that theta may serve as a functional scaffold for goal-appropriate information to be propagated within frontoparietal networks. 

Alex Conley - thesis title “Effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the motor cortex on response processes.” 

The neuromodulatory technique transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been proposed as a beneficial intervention for stroke patients, with the goal of improving upper limb function. However, despite over a decade of research in healthy and clinical samples, there is still little knowledge of how tDCS might produce these benefits in motor performance. My thesis investigated the effectiveness of tDCS over the motor cortex to enhance the cognitive processes that occur in the lead up to the execution of a motor response. I examined these processes in healthy younger and older adults, as well as in chronic stroke patients. I report a consistent pattern of results across all three groups showing no improvement following tDCS over the motor cortex on responding. These findings indicate that tDCS may not be a reliable option for enhancing response processing in stroke patients.

We wish them both well in their future careers!