2018 Conference

2018 Conference

Building on the success of the inaugural Brainbox Initiative Conference in 2017, this year’s event once again brought together rich, field-leading expertise in brain stimulation and brain imaging. We welcomed researchers from all stages of their careers, who were able to enjoy the presentation of groundbreaking research, as well as meet, network, discover, and exchange ideas with their peers, establishing exciting new opportunities to collaborate at the same time.

The Brainbox Initiative Conference 2018 programme included:

  • Keynote – Professor Zoe Kourtzi, University of Cambridge
  • Keynote – Professor Yoshikazu Ugawa, Fukushima Medical University
  • The latest research from early-career researchers, Dr James Bonaiuto, Dr Camilla Nord, Dr Marc Bächinger, Dr Lucia Li, Dr Benedikt Zoefel, Isabel Glover, and Sophie Esterer
  • ‘Preparing to Stimulate – Ethics and Research Design’ with Professor Kate Watkins and Professor Joseph Devlin
  • Updates from 2017 Research Challenge winners, Naheem Bashir and Tegan Penton
  • Poster pitches and session.

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Our speakers

Professor Yoshikazu Ugawa

Professor Yoshikazu Ugawa

Fukushima Medical University

Professor Yoshikazu Ugawa is now the Director and Professor of the Department of Neurology, and Vice President of Fukushima Medical University.

He enjoyed the disaster of the 2011 earthquake in Japan and still lives in Fukushima. Professor Ugawa graduated from Tokyo University in 1978 and studied physiology of movement disorders under Professor Marsden and Professor Rothwell in Queen Square, London in 1987-1990 after which, he returned to Tokyo University. He has been at the present position in Fukushima since 2007.

Professor Ugawa is interested in clinical neurophysiology and is one of the pioneers of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). He started to study pathophysiological mechanisms underlying various involuntary movements, especially myoclonus, using EEG, evoked potentials and MEGs. After the invention of TMS and neuroimaging techniques, he also used those newly developed methods for this purpose. He extended the target disorders to Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. After the invention of repetitive TMS (rTMS), he studied neuroplasticity in humans and developed a new plasticity induction method – quadripulse stimulation (QPS). In addition to studies of normal plasticity, he applied the plasticity induction method to the treatment of neurological disorders and he is now developing new treatments using rTMS for movement disorders, especially Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Kate Watkins

Professor Kate Watkins

University of Oxford

Kate Watkins is currently a full professor in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford.

Kate completed her PhD with Faraneh Vargha-Khadem and David Gadian at University College London. Her doctoral work used neuropsychology and brain imaging to study members of the KE family who had a mutation in the gene FOXP2, which causes impairments in speech and language. She identifies structural and functional abnormalities in cortical and subcortical motor areas in affected family members. For her postdoctoral research, she moved to the Montreal Neurological Institute to work with Tomas Paus. There she used TMS with EMG recordings from the lip and with PET imaging to study the role of the speech motor system in speech perception.

Kate returned to the UK and the University of Oxford working first at the FMRIB Centre and then in the Department of Experimental Psychology and St. Anne’s College. She established the Speech & Brain Research Group in Oxford, which uses brain imaging and brain stimulation alone and in combination to study sensorimotor interactions for speech. Her research involves studies of speech and language in typical adults, children and special populations with speech and language disorders, such as stuttering and developmental language disorder. Recently, her team completed a randomised controlled trial showing that tDCS can enhance fluency in people who stutter. A new trial is underway using imaging of the brain and vocal tract, MEG and TMS to measure the outcomes of the tDCS and speech training intervention.

Professor Zoe Kourtzi

Professor Zoe Kourtzi

University of Cambridge

Zoe Kourtzi is Professor of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Computational Neuroscience at the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge and a Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. Her work aims to understand the role of lifelong learning and experience in enabling humans of all ages to translate sensory experience into complex decisions and adaptive behaviours. To understand the link between individual learning ability and brain plasticity, she takes a cross-disciplinary approach that synthesises methods from behavioural science (cognitive testing), neuroscience (brain imaging) and computational modelling (machine learning). After completing her PhD on object recognition at Rutgers University, Zoe started her work on human brain imaging as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and Harvard University. She then received a McDonnell-Pew award to combine animal and human brain imaging and moved to the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics as a Senior Research Scientist. She moved to the University of Birmingham as a Chair in Brain Imaging in 2005, and to the University of Cambridge in 2013.

Professor Jean-François Lepage

Professor Jean-François Lepage

Université de Sherbrooke

After obtaining his PhD in Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology from l’Université de Montréal, Prof. Jean-François Lepage completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford School of Medicine, where he studied rare genetic disorders, followed by a second fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital to study the use of non-invasive brain stimulation in pediatric populations.

Jean-François’ research program aims to understand how environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors interact with and influence human brain development. He is now an associate professor appointed with the department of Pediatrics (Neurology) at Université de Sherbrooke.

Dr Alex Casson

Dr Alex Casson

University of Manchester

Dr Alex Casson is a senior lecturer in the Sensing, Imaging and Signal Processing group in the school of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on non-invasive bioelectronics interfaces: the design and application of wearable sensors, and ‘conformal sensors’, for human body monitoring and data analysis from highly artefact prone naturalistic situations. This work is highly multi-disciplinary and he has research expertise in:

  • Ultra low power microelectronic circuit design (at the discrete and fully custom microchip levels).
  • Sensor signal processing for power constrained motion artefact rich environments.
  • Personalised device manufacture using 3D printing and inkjet printing.

He has particular interests in precision devices for closed loop bioelectronic interventions: those which are tailored to the individual by personalised manufacturing via printing; and tailored interventions by adjusting treatments using data driven responses/outputs from real-time signal processing. Dr Casson’s ultra low power sensors work is mainly for medical applications, with a strong background in EEG and transcranial current stimulation. These applications focus on both mental health situations including epilepsy, sleep disorders, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and autism, and physical health/rehabilitation applications including diabetic foot ulceration.

Dr Casson gained his undergraduate degree from the University of Oxford in 2006 where he read Engineering Science specialising in Electronic Engineering (MEng). He completed his PhD from Imperial College London in 2010, winning the prize for best doctoral thesis in electrical and electronic engineering. Dr Casson worked as a research associate and research fellow at Imperial College until 2013 when he joined the faculty at the University of Manchester. He is good clinical practice certified and is a site miner for the Manchester Integrating Medicine and Innovative Technology (MIMIT) scheme for systematically connecting clinicians and engineers to address unmet clinical needs. His work has resulted in 84 publications since 2007, with their impact reflected by a substantial number of invited talks (20 since 2014, at 6 different UK universities, and institutions in Germany and the USA) and invited papers (7 since 2014, all in international conferences/journals). This is further evidenced by awards including the 2013 IET JA Lodge prize for early career biomedical engineers and the 2016 Rogue Resolutions challenge award for neuromodulation with a total prize value of £74,000. Dr Casson is currently a Senior Member of the IEEE, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and vice-chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s healthcare technologies network.

Dr Camilla Nord

Dr Camilla Nord

University of Cambridge

Dr Camilla Nord is an Investigator Scientist at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge. After reading for a degree in Physiology and Psychology at the University of Oxford, she completed her doctoral training at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London under the supervision of Profs. Jonathan Roiser and Sven Bestmann, where she ran a clinical trial measuring the neural, cognitive, and clinical effects of frontal cortex stimulation combined with psychological therapy in depression and investigated putative ‘biomarkers’ of response. In 2017, she took up a post-doctoral position in the lab of Dr Valerie Voon at the University of Cambridge Department of Psychiatry working on novel dual-coil transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) approaches. Currently, she is developing a programme of research with Prof. Tim Dalgleish investigating the neurocomputational mechanisms of somatic and emotional symptoms in psychiatric disorders, using multimodal approaches, including computational modelling, brain stimulation, brain imaging, and pharmacology.

Dr Isabel Glover

Dr Isabel Glover

University College London

Dr Isabel Glover is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

Isabel Glover graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Natural Sciences. She completed her PhD at Stuart Baker’s lab at Newcastle University, and is funded by the Reece Foundation. Her research focuses on the contribution of reticulospinal pathways to movement, which she has investigated using electrophysiological techniques in both humans and non-human primates.

Dr James Bonaiuto

Dr James Bonaiuto

ISC Marc Jeannerod

James Bonaiuto completed his PhD in 2010 with Michael Arbib at the University of Southern California, developing computational models of reach and grasp performance and observation. James then performed postdoctoral research with Richard Andersen at the California Institute of Technology using computational modeling and reversible muscimol inactivation with nonhuman primates to develop an integrative model of effector- and value-based decision making. He then moved to University College London, working with Sven Bestmann and Gareth Barnes, using tDCS and EEG to study action-based and perceptual decision making, and action selection. There he helped pioneer the use of subject-specific head-casts for high precision MEG, and was the first to show, non-invasively in the human brain, the laminar- and frequency-specific correlates of action selection.

He is currently Charge de Recherche at the Insitut des Sciences Cognitives, Marc Jeannerod, CNRS.

Dr Marc Bächinger

Dr Marc Bächinger

ETH Zürich

Marc Bächinger studied Biology at ETH Zürich with a focus on Neuroscience. During his Master’s programme he carried out various psychophysical experiments in the field of visual and auditory perception. His Master’s thesis investigated the perception of visual stimuli — Glass patterns — rendered invisible by dynamic masking (motion-induced blindness). Parallel to his Master’s programme, he served as an intern at the University Hospital Zürich in the Laboratory of Experimental Audiology. There, he developed software for psychophysical experiments with patients who have cochlear implants. After finishing his Master’s Degree in 2012 he completed an internship at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich as a research assistant. He recently obtained his PhD at the Neural Control of Movement Lab where he investigated different interventions to modulate activity within the sensorimotor system, and was one of the first to apply a concurrent tACS-fMRI approach where the stimulation waveforms were tailored to the individual’s EEG activity. As of January 2018 he is continuing his research in the lab as a postdoctoral researcher. 

Research Interests

Dr. Bächinger has a great interest in advancing the understanding and application of non-invasive neurostimulation in combination with multimodal neuroimaging approaches. During his PhD, he studied different methods to modulate activity within the sensorimotor system and received a Merit Award from the Organization of Human Brain mapping and the Volker Henn Poster Award from the Swiss Society of Neuroscience for his work on combining tACS and resting-state fMRI. Currently, his research focuses on the neurophysiological basis of performance fatigability in humans, using a multi-modal approach including connectivity analysis of fMRI and EEG data, as well as non-invasive brain stimulation methods (TMS & tDCS). He is especially interested in determining which neurophysiological markers are associated with fatigability and how to apply interventions tailored to those markers to alleviate fatigability.

Dr Sophie Esterer

Dr Sophie Esterer

Cardiff University

Sophie Esterer completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Vienna. She then gained her Masters degree in Cognitive Neuroscience working with Prof. Ole Jensen at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.

She is currently doing a PhD at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), supervised by Dr David McGonigle. Her research is co-funded by the EPSRC with a focus on visual psychophysics and combining transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with neuroimaging techniques, in particular MEG and fNIRS, to study the physiological basis of neuromodulation in sensory processing. Sophie is also investigating the use of finite-element-models of transcranial electrical stimulation for designing and evaluating brain stimulation experiments.

Award winners

Kathy Ruddy

Research Challenge Award 2018
Kathy Ruddy

We are very proud to introduce our very first interview with Kathy Ruddy of Trinity College Dublin, one of the two successful 2018 BrainBox Initiative Research Challenge winners. Kathy submitted her exciting research into ‘Late-cortical disinhibition as a mechanism to upregulate excitability of the corticospinal pathway after stroke’ and was chosen as our successful winner by the BrainBox Initiative’s Scientific Committee. Over the coming months we will be supporting and following the progress of Kathy’s groundbreaking research, and will be providing regular updates and interviews to keep everyone informed of how Kathy’s work is developing.v

Mirja Steinbrenner

Research Challenge Award 2018
Mirja Steinbrenner

Mirja’s winning submission to the Research Challenge uses transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) techniques to explore the ‘Reduction of cerebral excitation through combination of GSR biofeedback and tDCS’, and was chosen by the BrainBox Initiative’s scientific committee as one of this year’s two successful winners. As Mirja’s research develops over the next few months, we will be routinely following up with her on a regular basis to find out more about the exciting work that she is carrying out.

Maria Ironside

Young Investigator Award 2018
Maria Ironside

We are proud to announce that Dr Maria Ironside of Harvard University is the winner of the 2018 BrainBox Initiative Young Investigator Award. Maria’s successful research examines ‘Cognitive and neural mechanisms of action of frontal cortex stimulation and its implications for the treatment of depression and anxiety’.


2018 conference posters

Poster Archive 2018

Modulating emotion perception using portico-cortical paired associative stimulation

Ramisa Ahmed, Aikaterini Vafeiadou, Michael J Banissy
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, UK

Deep Learning Prediction of Tissue Integrity

Matthew Townend
University of Manchester

Protective effects of agathisflavone in the cerebellar ex vivo model of demyelination

Monique Marylin Alves de Almeida Carneiro1,3; Francesca Pieropan3; Victor Diógenes A. da Silva1; Cleide dos Santos Souza2; Arthur M. Butt3; Silvia Lima Costa1.
1Departament of Biofunction, Institute of Health Sciences, University Federal of Bahia, Brazil; 2Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield – UK 3School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Portsmouth-UK

Using NIBS and fMRI to study the role of ipsilateral M1 in motor learning

Emily L Hinson1,2, Shaun Thein1, Francesca Back1,2, Charlotte J Stagg1,2
1Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB), Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DU, United Kingdom 2Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA), Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7JX, United Kingdom

Investigating the Effect of Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to the Cerebellum on Visuomotor Adaptation

Caroline Nettekoven
Physiological Neuroimaging Group, University of Oxford.

fMRI-Guided TMS to Auditory Cortex During Processing of Broadband Noise Amplitude Modulated at Speech-Relevant Rate

Adam Partridge
CUBRIC, Cardiff University, UK.

Can bilingualism facilitate flexibility in speech perception? Evidence from a cross-linguistic fNIRS investigation

S Cheung1, E Parise1, S Brandt1, Luca Onnis2, G Westermann1
1Lancaster University, UK. 2Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

The effect of menstrual cycle hormone fluctuations on GABAergic mechanisms: preliminary evidence from TMS and MRS

Samantha Côté1,2, Amal Loudghi1,2, Jasmeen Sidhu1, Adrianna Mendrek4, Kevin Whittingstall1,2, Jean-Francois Lepage1,2,3
1Department of Nuclear Medicine and Radiobiology, Sherbrooke University. 2Sherbrooke University Research Center, 3001-12th Ave. North, Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada. 3Department of Pediatrics, Sherbrooke University, 3001-12th Ave. North, Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada. 4Department of Psychology, Bishop’s University, 2600 College St. Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

Parent-infant neural dynamics during social learning: an EEG hyperscanning study

Victoria Leong
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and University of Cambridge, UK.

The motor system reduces McGurk illusion – event related fMRI and TMS studies

Takenobu Murakami1, Mitsunari Abe2, Juri Fujiwara3, Michuri Makuuchi4, Shunsuke Kobayashi1, Satoshi Eifuku, Yoshikazu Ugawa1,5
1Department of Neurology. 2Centre for Neurological Disorders. 3Department of Systems Neuroscience. 5Department of Neuro-regeneration, Fukushima Medical University. 4Section of Neuropsychology, Research Institute of National Rehabilitation Centre for Persons with Disabilities.

The i-ExC game: enhance cognitive performance, physical fitness and interaction in the normal elderly

Solaphat Hemrungrojn1,2, Nutnicha Phensresirikun2, Suwicha Jirayucharoensak2,3, Vishnu Kotrajaras3, Setha Pan-ngum2,3,
1Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. 2CU-NECTEC, Centre of Technology for Cognitive Care in Elderly, King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand. 3Department of Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. 4National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre, Pathumthani, Thailand.

Effects of tDCS on mind-wandering and the default mode network

Sean Coulborn, Davinia Fernández-Espejo
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK.

The heart-brain link in dementia: mid-life cardiovascular risk predicts poor brain health 20 years later

Sana Suri1,2, Clare E Mackay1,2, Enikö Zsoldos1,2, Anya Topiwala1, Thomas Okell2, Michael Chappell2, Archana Singh-Manoux3, Mika Kivimaki3, Klaus P Ebmeier1,
1Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. 2Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, University of Oxford. 3Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, UCL, London.

Neural effects of continuous theta-burst stimulation on single neutrons in macaque parietal cortex

Maria C Romero1,2, Peter Janssen1, Marco Davare2
1Lab. Voor Neuro- Psychofysiologie, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. 2Onderzoeksgroep Bewegingscontrole & Neuroplasticiteit, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Short-interval intra-cortical facilitation in epilepsy

Katri Silvennoinen
Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, UCL Institute of Neurology, UCL, London.

Lateralized EEG responses during visually induced vector from visual flicked in the alpha range and subsequent modulation using frequency matched tACS

James Dowsett1,2, Christoph S Herrman5,6, Marianne Dietrich1,2,3,4, Paul C J Taylor1,2,3,
1Department of Neurology, University Hospital, LMU Munich. 2German Centre for Vertigo and Balance Disorders, University Hospital, LMU Munich. 3Graduate School of Systematic Neurosciences, LMU Munich. 4SyNergy – Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology. 5Experimental Psychology Lab, Centre for Excellence “Hearing4all”, European Medical School, University of Oldenburg, Germany. 6Research Centre Neurosensory Science, University of Oldenburg, Germany.

Motor cortical changes in preparation for self-paces actions investigated with combined transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroencephalography

Jaime Ibanez, L Rocchi, R Hannah, JC Rothwell
Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences, Institute of Neurology, UCL, London

Improving motor learning via phase-amplitude coupled theta-gamma tACS

H Akkad1, J Dupont-Hadwen2, S Bestmann2, C J Stagg1
1Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, FMRIB, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford. 2Institute of Neurology, UCL, London.

Ineffective single-blinding during 1mA transcranial direct current stimulation

Larissa Buhôt1, Robert Greinacher1, Lisa Möller1,2, Gemma Learmonth1
1Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, FMRIB, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford. 2Institute of Neurology, UCL, London.

Corpus callosum or brainstem: which is most involved in coordination of facial muscles?

Ginatempo F1,3, Manzo N2,3, Rothwell JC3, Deriu F1,
1Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy. 2Department of Human Neurosciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. 3Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK.

TMS based neurofeedback allows to decode movement intentions for single fingers

Ernest Mihelj1, Marc Bächinger1, Kathy Ruddy1,2, Nicole Wenderoth1
1Neural Control of Movement Lab, ETH, Zürich, Switzerland. 2Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

Brain stimulation to modulate vigilant attention in elderly and stroke populations

Elena Olgiati1, Ines Violante2, Lucia Li1, Ara Faraj1, Toby Sinclair1, Richard Wise, Paresh Malhotra1
1Department of Medicine, Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London. 2School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey. Deceased.

Combining reward and M1 transcranial direct current stimulation enhances the retention of newly learnt sensorimotor mappings

Danny Spampinato, Zabina Satar, John Rothwell
University College London

Motor learning shapes temporal activity in human sensorimotor cortex

Catharina Zich1,2, Mark M Woolrich1,2, Robert Becker1, Diego Vidaurre1,4, Jacqueline Scholl3, Emily J Hinson1,2, Laurie Josephs1, Sven Braeutigam1, Andrew J Quinn1, Charlotte J Stagg1,2
1Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. 2Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, FMRIB, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford. 3Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. 4Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences, University of Osaka.

No modulation of verbal working memory task performance by fronto-parietal theta tACS

Anna Lena Biel, Lukas Röll, Elisabeth Sterner, Paul Sauseng
Department of Psychology, Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität Munich, Germany