Brain & Cognition Group

Brain Stimulation and Cognition Group

Headed by Prof. Alexander T. Sack

 

With our research we aim to contribute to unravelling the psychological and neural mechanisms of human cognition. How is it that a brain, simply a collection of cells, can give rise to something as rich and expansive as everyday human experience? How does the brain solve the many problems -easy or difficult- that we encounter in our daily lives?

Human cognition involves selecting relevant information for further processing (attention) and flexibly storing and retrieving this information when needed (working memory). We use functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to identify which regions within the fronto-parietal dorsal attention network (DAN) are activated during attention and working memory. We then move on to use noninvasive brain stimulation (magnetic and electic neuromodulation) to alter activity in nodes of this network, leading to temporary cognitive behavioral changes in healthy volunteers. Independent of this spatial network perspective of cognition, we combine this approach with electroencephalography (EEG) to study brain oscillations in the lower-frequency range (4-20 Hz) associated with modulatory/feedback functions relevant for attention and working memory. The goal is to integrate these spatial network and temporal oscillation insights to enhance cognitive functions using noninvasive brain stimulation.

Our non-invasive integration of brain-wide network and oscillatory communication mechanisms to optimise cognition has been fueled by our own multimodal methods development program. Our group pioneered the development of simultaneously implemented TMS-fMRI-EEG during cognitive behaviour. This means we can now apply brain-stimulation while recording the individual brain network (fMRI) and oscillation (EEG) responses of cognitively engaged participants.

This interdisciplinary and translational research program will deliver both fundamental insights into neurobiological mechanisms of attention, working memory, and cognitive control in healthy participants, and derive new brain-system-based personalised interventions for cognitive rehabilitation after stroke or traumatic brain injury.”