DSI ECR Showcase Talks - Dr Xiaoyun Chen, Psychology and Juliane Bjerkan, Physics

Wednesday 13 December 2023, 1:00pm to 2:30pm


INF - Infolab C60b/c - View Map

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All Lancaster University (non-partner) students, External Organisations, Postgraduates, Public, Staff, Undergraduates


Registration not required - just turn up

Event Details

Early Career Researcher's present talks about their work - last talk of 2023

Speaker: Dr Xiaoyun Chen

Title: Exploring Cognitive Mechanisms in Curiosity-Driven Learning Across Infancy and Adulthood

Abstract: Humans across all developmental stages exhibit pervasive curiosity-driven behaviours to seek and acquire new information. From very early on in life, young infants are sensitive to novelty in their environment, and they actively explore their surroundings through their eyes and body. Adults spend time reading books, engaging with puzzles and quizzes as well as other information-seeking activities (e.g., gossip) without apparent incentives. As an inner need for knowledge, curiosity is thought to not only facilitate human cognitive development but also expand our knowledge boundaries and inspire innovation and discovery. However, the underlying cognitive mechanisms of curiosity remain unclear. Therefore, using interdisciplinary methods including behaviour, eye tracking, pupillometry and EEG, my research so far investigates the effect of curiosity elicited by visually uncertain information on young infants' and adults’ learning. In this talk, I will present the key findings of this investigation.

Speaker: Juliane Bjerkan

Title : The neurovascular unit in ageing and dementia

Juliane Bjerkan, Gemma Lancaster, Bernard Meglič, Jan Kobal, Peter Kirkpatrick, Karol Budohoski, Trevor J. Crawford, Peter V. E. McClintock, Aneta Stefanovska

Abstract: The brain needs a lot of energy to function properly, and is therefore dependent on a sufficient supply of glucose, oxygen and other nutrients. Nutrients are transported to the neurones by the vasculature, which cooperates with various cells to maintain a balance between neuronal energy demand and supply. These cell types include glial cells of which astrocytes are the most numerous, and pericytes that embrace the small vessels and their endothelial cells. Together with the neurones and the microvasculature they constitute the neurovascular unit (NVU). Recent studies have shown that the impairment of the NVU has adverse consequences for brain health. However, to date, no diagnostic method is available for non-invasive in-vivo evaluation of the efficiency of the NVU in humans. Here, we present a method that combines simultaneous measurements of the electrical activity of the neurones in the brain (EEG) and their oxygen levels using near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS). To analyse the recorded data, we use advanced time-series analysis methods that can capture oscillations with time-varying frequencies, and we focus on their phases and interactions. Furthermore, we extract the instantaneous phases of oscillations related to neuronal and vascular/oxygenation activity, and evaluate the level of their coherence. We also use surrogate data to test for the significance of the results obtained.

The method will be demonstrated using data from three different studies: (i) on participants from two age groups, consisting of younger (31.1±6.9 years) and older (64.9±6.9 years) subjects; (ii) on participants with Huntington’s disease (HD) compared to an age-matched healthy control group; and (iii) on participants with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), also compared to an age-matched healthy control group. We will show that the effective phase coherence between neuronal and oxygenation activities at around 0.1Hz is significantly reduced in the older participants compared to younger ones, and that it is further reduced in both AD and HD participants compared to aged-matched controls. Changes in power and coherence, specific to ageing, AD and/or HD, will also be discussed. Our method promises a new avenue for quantitative evaluation of the efficiency of the NVU in both ageing and dementia.

Teams link is here

Contact Details

Name Julia Carradus