Cognitive Neuroscience Unit

The Cognitive Neuroscience Unit (CNU) is a research group that uses cutting-edge technologies to explore the relationship between the brain, behaviour and cognition. 

Based in the School of Psychology, and affiliated with the Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED), the CNU has a strong neurodevelopmental focus.

Our focus

Formed in 2014, CNU researchers use a range of brain stimulation, neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques to explore the relationship between cognition, behaviour and biology. The CNU strives to provide the latest understandings in social, cognitive and affective human neuroscience.

The CNU research examines both typically developing and atypically developing populations, such as autism spectrum disorder, language impairment and developmental coordination disorder. Through various clinical trials, the CNU also aims to develop novel interventions that use current neuroscience approaches and understandings.


Research programs

CNU Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab

The Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab explores how the human brain allows us to interpret our interpersonal world and manage our emotional lives. Taking a developmental perspective with a focus on childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, the lab investigates topics such as empathy, motor resonance, theory of mind, and emotion regulation.

From a clinical perspective, the Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab also conducts research into   autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here the lab harnesses cutting-edge neuroimaging and neurophysiological approaches, seeking to better understand the brain basis of ASD.

There is also a focus on the translation of this work by developing novel brain stimulation protocols designed to target specific processes. Current clinical trials employ non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with ASD.

Lab Leader

  • Prof. Peter Enticott

Staff

  • Dr. Natalia Albein-Urios
  • Ms. Hannah Bereznicki
  • Dr. Gillian Clark
  • Mr. Michael Do
  • Dr. Peter Donaldson
  • Dr. Melissa Kirkovski
  • Dr. Joel Yang

Postgraduate students

  • Ms. Soukayna Bekkali
  • Ms. Hannah Bereznicki
  • Ms. Felicity Bigelow
  • Mr. Jed Burgess
  • Mr. Michael Do
  • Ms. Lara Fernandez
  • Ms. Alexandra Lavale
  • Ms. Claire McNeel
  • Ms. Dinisha Parmar

Interns (2018)

  • Ms. Emily Grundy
  • Ms. Randini Karunanayake
  • Ms. Emma Sawada Petersen
  • Ms. Amaia Rodriguez Rementeria
  • Mr. Liam Wallace
  • Ms. Ellen Younger

Flagship projectS

The development of the social brain in early childhood

Funded by an ARC Future Fellowship, this project uses eye-tracking and EEG to examine social brain function in primary school-aged children. We are interested in how different social brain networks communicate with one another, and how this gives rise to abilities such as empathy and social communication.

Non-invasive brain stimulation in autism spectrum disorder

Using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS), we are conducting randomised controlled clinical trials to improve social relating, cognitive flexibility and emotion regulation in adolescents and adults with ASD. This work is funded in part by a NARSAD Independent Investigator Award from the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation.

CNU Brain and Cognitive Development Lab

The Brain and Cognitive Development Lab uses advanced neuroimaging techniques to enhance our understanding of neurodevelopment and how brain maturation relates to the development of cognitive functions.

Using a range of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques including structural, diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) functional (fMRI) and resting state (rs-fMRI), the Brain and Cognition Lab investigates brain development in typical childhood, as well as when neurodevelopment goes awry such as neurodevelopment disorders (ADHD, autism etc). By applying these neuroimaging techniques, the lab aims to reveal how subtle individual neuroanatomical variation lead to diversity in human cognition, and ultimately to distinguish or predict differential cognitive and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Current Research Focus

Trajectories in brain structure and function for children with ADHD

An arm of the Children’s Attention Project, this is a large longitudinal neuroimaging project conducted in order to understand how brain structure and function change across late childhood to early adolescence for children with and without ADHD, and how those changes reflect symptoms and functional outcomes.

Understanding the role of epigenetic factors in both typical and atypical brain and cognitive development

The field of developmental epigenomics is beginning to identify how specific environmental factors influence brain structure and function at critical stages of development.  Using both a sample of ADHD and a typically developing twin cohort we are examining whether epigenetic state, or changes in epigenetic state, can predict brain and cognitive development or clinical presentation. In addition, we are investigating whether we can identify modifiable environmental factors associated with the changes in epigenetic state.

The influence of puberty on brain and cognitive development

Adolescence is a dynamic period of brain development that drives cognitive maturity. The hormones involved in puberty directly contribute to shaping brain development. This project examines how trajectories of brain development and the related maturation of cognitive ability are influenced by the sensitive transition through puberty.

Lab Leader

  • A/Prof. Tim Silk

Postgraduate Students

  • Ms. Kate Stephens

CNU Language and Memory Lab

The aim of the Language and Memory Lab research stream is twofold. The first is to investigate the neurological mechanisms that underpin learning and memory. Here, the lab seeks to understand how the brain learns, stores and retrieves information. The second stream investigates the extent neural networks that are known to support memory also play a role in language.

The Language and Memory Lab investigates memory and language functioning across the lifespan. The lab’s work with infants and children uses eye-tracking, pupillometry and EEG. With adults, the lab studies interrelationships between the brain, memory and language using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

The goal of the Language and Memory Lab is to advance knowledge about the role of memory in language. The lab also aims to contribute to the development of support programs for individuals with language difficulties, as well as methods that will facilitate language learning from infancy to adulthood.

Lab Leader

  • A/Prof. Jarrad Lum

Staff

  • Dr. Gillian Clark

Postgraduate Students

  • Mr. Michael Barham
  • Mr. James Plumridge
  • Ms. Caitlyn Rogers
  • Ms. Nicole Sloan
  • Ms. Lucy Sommers
  • Ms. Anna Ware

CNU Motor Cognition Lab

The neural and cognitive basis of atypical motor skill: a multidisciplinary investigation

The Motor Cognition Lab is conducting a series of world-first studies investigating the causal mechanisms that subserve individual differences in skill acquisition in childhood and serious developmental disorders of movement, such as developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

The lab combines highly novel experimental measures of action and cognition with a variety of neuro structural (MRI), functional (fMRI) and physiological (TMS, tDCS pupillometry) measures to gain new insight into the the factors that contribute to motor development and its disorder.

The goal of these studies is to inform the development of targeted interventions and circumvent the presentation of commonly observed psychosocial difficulties associated with reduced motor competence.

These projects build on a body of work from the lab leader, Dr. Christian Hyde, but also bring together expertise of a number of members within the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit. Together, this environment is ideal for producing high-impact, novel research.

Lab Leader

  • Dr. Christian Hyde

Staff

  • Dr. Daniel Corp
  • Dr. Ian Fuelscher

Postgraduate Students

  • Mr. Andris Cerins
  • Mr. Jason He
  • Ms. Pam Barhoun

Interns (2018)

  • Mr. Dwayne Meaney

CNU Executive Function and Health Behaviour Lab

The Executive Function and Health Behaviour Lab aims to build a body of research in Australia on the neural mechanisms of executive functioning in health behaviour change, with the primary focus being on weight and smoking.

The focus of the lab’s research is to explore the underlying mechanisms of health behaviour, particularly around impulsivity and inhibitory control. Using the latest approaches, the lab is exploring inhibitory control deficits and the potential impact of inhibitory control training on behaviour change.

Lab Leader

  • Dr. Melissa Hayden

Staff

  • A/Prof. Petra Staiger

Postgraduate Students

  • Ms. Sasha Davies
  • Ms. Laura Hughes
  • Ms. Denise Foley

Our team

Study with us

Prospective undergraduate students 

Cognitive neuroscience at Deakin begins in your undergraduate psychology degree. Expert CNU staff teach two neuroscience-specific undergraduate units:

  • HPS310 Brain, Behaviour and Biology is a core Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) unit that explores contemporary neurobiological explanations of human behaviour.
  • HPS395 Cognitive Neuroscience is an elective unit that provides an advanced examination of current issues, theories, methods and applications relevant to the area of cognitive neuroscience.

Please see the relevant course structure for more information.

Find an undergraduate psychology degree

Internship opportunities

Each year the CNU offers a limited number of unpaid internships to undergraduate students who are interested in a career in cognitive neuroscience.

If you are interested in being considered for an internship within the CNU, please contact Prof. Peter Enticott.

+61 3 9244 5504
Email A/Prof. Enticott

Prospective postgraduate and PhD students

Prospective Honours/Postgraduate Diploma of Psychology Students

There are many opportunities to complete research within the CNU as part of your fourth-year psychology degree (honours or graduate diploma).

Each year the CNU offers psychology fourth-year research projects across a range of topic for around 50 students. Most projects are group-based, but assessments (including the Research Proposal and Empirical Report) must be completed individually.

CNU fourth-year project allocations for 2018 have been completed. Please check back later in the year to learn about the fourth-year projects being offered within the CNU in 2019. Projects for the following year are typically listed from November.

Prospective PhD students

There are many opportunities to complete your psychology doctoral research (PhD or DPsych) within the CNU. See our staff profiles if you would like more information on potential supervisors.

For more information about these programs, see the Doctor of Philosopy (Psychology) and Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) course pages.

Contact us

CNU Director
Professor Peter Enticott
+61 3 9244 5504
Email Prof. Enticott

Lab Coordinator
Soukayna Bekkali
Email Soukayna Bekkali