Overseas Institutional Visit at the Alberta Brain and Cognitive Development lab at the University of Alberta


Overseas Institutional Visit at the Alberta Brain and Cognitive Development lab at the University of Alberta

by Emma Blakey (University of Sheffield, Psychology Pathway)


Emma  BlakeyI was recently awarded funding to visit the Alberta Brain and Cognitive Development lab at the University of Alberta. The visit was a fantastic opportunity to enhance my research by learning a complementary neuroscience technique to investigate executive function development and create my first international collaboration During my visit I worked with Dr Sandra Wiebe, an international expert in my field, and worked in her lab which specialises in the use of Electroencephalography (EEG). This cognitive neuroscience tool is a non-invasive technique that measures real-time neural activation using electrode sensors placed on the scalp. By learning this technique I have been able to answer important additional questions that I would not have been able to using behavioural techniques alone.

During the visit I designed a study with Dr Wiebe and adapted the tasks I developed as part of my PhD for use with EEG. I learnt about the whole process of conducting EEG studies from collecting the data to processing and analysing the data using NetStation software. Before I finished the visit, I gained valuable experience training research assistants in the data collection, and I am currently co-supervising the project with Dr Wiebe. So that the study has a large sample size, data collection is currently ongoing at the University of Alberta. We anticipate that data collection will be complete by December and after that we will write up the results for publication.

WRC036While on my visit I also had the opportunity to work as a research assistant on an additional ongoing project in the lab investigating cognitive skills and physical activity in children. This allowed me to learn about a new research area and gain further training in the use of EEG. I was also given the opportunity to present two talks and two posters on both my PhD research and my current project as part of the lab visit at the University to an audience of developmental psychologists. There were other great benefits, for example Dr Wiebe and I prepared a fellowship application to the Canadian Banting fellowship scheme so that I could continue my research at a post-doctoral level. In addition, while on the visit, I met Professor Susan Graham, from the University of Calgary and she invited me to visit her lab for the day and present my research there. These opportunities to present my work enabled me to get valuable feedback on my research as I coming into the final stage of my PhD.

The visit has made a significant impact on my PhD research by first and foremost, allowing me to expand my research programme and research methods. Through the visit, I have also gained valuable feedback on my research from international experts. The visit has also been an extremely valuable asset to my career development by making my post-doctoral applications more competitive. I am in the process of preparing applications to do further research with Dr Wiebe at a post-doctoral level.