Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory
The Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL) conducts research in the broad area of cognitive and affective neuroscience. We examine the neural basis of human perception, memory, cognition and emotion in healthy individuals, development, ageing and clinical conditions, including schizophrenia and stroke. We are also involved in new trends of applied and translational research, applying our expertise to a variety of other fields such as marketing, economy and design (Applied Neuroscience), and adaptive functional development in childhood, ageing and clinical groups (Translational Neuroscience).
FNL is the largest research facility in the School of Psychology, in terms of number of affiliated staff and number of RHD and Honours students. FNL extends over two campuses and encompasses five full-time academic staff, two conjoint staff, two post-doctoral fellows and many collaborating researchers. FNL staff currently supervise over 20 RHD students and approximately 10 Honours students annually.
We have state-of-the-art electrophysiological testing facilities at both Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses, including five fully operational EEG labs (40chnl Neuroscan, three 64chnl BioSemi, one 96chnl BioSemi system) and a high resolution eye-tracking system that can be used in combination with EEG). In addition, in a joint research program with the Laboratory of Neuroimmunology, we have established rodent electrophysiological recording facilities based on four 8-channels wireless systems from MultiChannel Systems (MCS). Our labs also house clinical and neuropsychological test facilities, multiple workstations for EEG processing and MRI analysis, and research space for doctoral students.
FNL researchers are affliliated with the Priority Research Centre in Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health (PRC-TNMH), which is at the centre of the University of Newcastle’s decision to enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) infrastructure by partnering with Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) to develop a new MRI Facility at the location of the new state-of-the-art HMRI building. Currently, FNL researchers have access to MRI scanning facilities at both the Calvary Mater Hospital and at the John Hunter Hospital which hosts 1.5 T clinical scanner and a 3T Siemens Verio scanner.
FNL is supported by a strong technical team, including shared access to four FT/PT software engineers, and a part-time RA for Imaging Support. These positions are supported by FSCIT and PRC-TNMH funding. This research facility cost over $1m to make fully functional in early 2000s and has been strongly supported by FSCIT with pilot and strategic grant funding, summer scholarships, APA scholarships and strong RIBG/CAPEX support, as evidenced by over $150K of capital expenditure funding in the 2013 round.
Our staff head strong research programs in a range of areas related to cognitive and affective neuroscience.
Affective and Cognitive Neuroscience (Applied Neuroscience Group led by Professor Peter Walla)
Human behaviour is strongly influenced or even guided by non-conscious processes. In other words, the brain knows more than it admits to consciousness. Our goal is to get access to that knowledge in order to better understand and predict human behaviour. In particular, self reported emotion is often different to objectively measured emotion. Given that questionnaires relying on self report are still the most common way to measure emotions (e.g., as in attitudes) our approach helps to complete the understanding of any emotion-related processing.
Our work has clinical implications as in more accurately planning and shaping clinical interventions. In addition, many industries (e.g. marketers and advertisers) are very much interested in better understanding non-conscious affective processing in order to help them develop products that indeed satisfy their client’s needs and desires. In the end, there is more to emotion than just subjective feeling. Click on Applied Neuroscience to get further information
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (Age-ility Group led by A/Professor Frini Karayanidis)
Our research program focuses on lifespan development of cognitive control processes. Our particular focus is how variability in cognitive control contributes to the development and maintenance of adaptive behaviours and protects against the uptake of maladaptive behaviours throughout the lifespan. This work has implications for developing evidence-based educational, professional training and community-based programs that promote adaptive behaviours in adolescence and young adulthood, extend productivity and independence in old age, and facilitate lifestyle behaviours that promote mental and physical health (National Research Priority:
Promoting and Maintaining Good Health). We are working to achieve this, by developing a comprehensive understanding of the neural networks that support cognitive control processes, and how biological and environmental influences impact flexible development of these networks across the lifespan.
Our research team includes national and international researchers. Em Prof Pat Michie (UoN), Dr Kristin Laurens (UNSW) and Prof Rhoshel Lenroot (UNSW) have extensive expertise in developmental cognitive neuroscience; Prof Andrew Heathcote (UoN) collaborates on mathematical models of cognitive control; Prof Birte Forstmann and Prof E.J. Wagenmakers from the University of Amsterdam work with us on developing model-based neuroscience analyses; Prof Natalie Philips (Concordia) and Professors Chris Levi and Prof Mark Parsons from UoN bring expertise in ageing and stroke. For more information go to www.age-ility.org.au.
Cognitive Neuroscience of Schizophrenia (Collaborators – Emeritus Professor Pat Michie, Dr. Juanita Todd, Professor Ulrich Schall, A/Prof Deborah Hodgson and Dr. Lauren Harms)
Our research program focuses on the neurobiology of schizophrenia and is a collaboration across groups within Psychology (FNL and Neuroimmunology laboratories) and across disciplines (Psychology and Psychiatry). Much of the impetus for this research is our earlier work demonstrating that a simple electrophysiological index of auditory change detection, mismatch negativity (MMN), is reduced in amplitude in patients with schizophrenia. This finding has been replicated in many laboratories nationally and internationally and is one of the most robust neurobiological findings in schizophrenia.
Current research is directed at understanding the brain structural and functional underpinnings of reduced MMN in schizophrenia, whether reduced MMN predicts transition to psychosis in individuals identified as being in an at-risk-mental state, what MMN derived from novel experimental paradigms can tell us about the nature of the cognitive deficit in schizophrenia and use of MMN in an animal model of schizophrenia to determine the involvement of the glutamate NMDA receptor system in schizophrenia.
Cognitive Neuroscience (ERP Lab led by A/Professor Frances Martin)
This research program is led by and focuses on the neuropsychological correlates of various cognitive processes including attention, resource allocation, language (particularly word recognition and reading), and memory and on the neuropsychological correlates of emotional processing and the interaction between cognitive and emotional processes. We are also interested in the cognitive and behavioural processes involved in gambling and internet addiction and the effects that various substances have on visual, cognitive, and emotional processing.
ERP Lab researchers are located at the Ourimbah campus and are an integral part of the FNL which is affiliated with the Priority Research Centre in Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health (PRC-TNMH). Currently, ERP Lab researchers have access to a Neuroscan Curry 7 system.
Mismatch Negativity (MMN) – Translating the potential. (Research Programme led by Dr Juanita Todd)
Emergent knowledge on the systems and processes underlying mismatch negativity (MMN) reveal that it is far from the simple evoked potential that it first appears to be. The principle behind this research programme is that MMN is a tool that we can use to explore brain function and the way we challenge this system will determine what we learn about it.
The programme is currently comprised of two streams - one stream is devoted to studying a speech-relevant asymmetry in detecting rapid change in sound (temporal processing asymmetries) and involves collaboration with Professor Birte Forstman from The Netherlands and Professor Sonja Kotz from Germany. The second stream is an investigation of a profound bias in automatic filters determining how the auditory cortex responds to sound.
This bias has strong implications for theories about MMN generally and includes collaboration with Professor Andrew Heathcote (also from Newcastle), Professor István Winkler from Hungary and Dr Marta Garrido from University of Queensland. The purpose of both streams is to feed into our programme of research around the Cognitive Neuroscience of Schizophrenia.
Family Interaction and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (FINDlab led by Dr Linda Campbell)
Successful social interaction is key to mental well-being. However, there are many people who find social situations very challenging. This research program and focuses on examining social cognition and in particular theory of mind and face processing skills and the relationship to mental health.
One of the key goals of the program is to better understand the behavioural phenotype of young people with neurodevelopmental disorders. Many children with neurodevelopmental disorders have significant social impairments with a large impact on their quality of life.
However, the underlying cognitive basis of these problems is poorly understood. We aim to investigate the cognitive basis of these social problems by using eye-tracking technology and other neuroimaging tools.
Another key goal is to delineate social cognitive processes amongst people with anxiety disorders and parents with postnatal depression.
See also: www.fnl-newcastle.com