The role of action outcomes in cognitive control

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Experimental Psychology

Abstract

The aim of our research is to understand how human thought and action are shaped by the goals and intentions we have, a function termed 'cognitive control' in psychology and neuroscience. The ability to act in a planned and purposeful way to achieve our goals is vital in everyday life, and is thought to rely particularly on the frontal lobes of the brain. This idea has significant implications: The frontal lobes are the part of the brain that is slowest to develop as we pass through childhood and adolescence, fastest to decline as we age, and is among the most affected regions by psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and depression. All of these groups struggle to some degree in situations requiring cognitive control: learning new skills, coping with many simultaneous demands on attention ('multi-tasking'), and ignoring distractions. Understanding the psychology of cognitive control and the neuroscience of the frontal lobes therefore promises to have important implications for education, treatment in psychiatry, and understanding the challenges of an aging population. Our research specifically investigates how people predict and learn from the consequences of their actions. To do this, we study how people perform carefully designed cognitive laboratory tasks, and in some experiments measure their brain activity as they do so, to answer the following questions: 1) Does focusing on the desired outcome of a task help us to perform the task better? Our hypothesis is that people should be better able to ignore distractions when the goal of their task is clear and understandable. Using neuroimaging, we expect to see brain activity relating to task goals even before those goals are reached, and from this activity we should be able to predict how well people will perform a task. 2) How do positive outcomes, such as financial rewards, help us to learn? We are testing the idea that, when rewards are earned, this reactivates brain regions that were involved in performing the task that led to the reward, strengthening their involvement and therefore improving task performance in future. By answering these questions, our research should help us to understand a central feature of human behaviour: our ability to direct our thoughts and activities toward achieving our goals. Our findings will not only increase scientific understanding of this basic human trait, but should also lead to new ideas about how to improve practice in the classroom, clinic, and beyond. For example, recent research has shown that focused training in cognitive control tasks can result in improvements in educational outcomes in schoolchildren, and can reduce some of the cognitive difficulties experienced by patients with schizophrenia. Better understanding of the brain systems responsible for cognitive control, and improved methods for measuring these abilities, should in the future lead to improvements in these applications of scientific research on cognitive control and the functions of the frontal lobes.

Technical Summary

The proposed project investigates the role of action outcomes--rewards and sensory action effects--in the control of behaviour, exploring novel territory at the intersection of research on human cognitive control, instrumental action selection, and reinforcement learning. These literatures each focus on goal-driven behaviour, but differences in their theoretical and methodological approaches have limited cross-stimulation to date. As a consequence, little is currently known about (A) cognitive control of instrumental tasks in which actions are directed towards achieving particular outcomes and, conversely, about (B) the role of reinforcement in learning high-level task representations. The proposed research investigates these issues in two series of studies that extend behavioural, EEG and fMRI approaches used successfully in our prior work in these separate fields. Series A evaluates the hypothesis that anticipation of task outcomes--specifically, the sensory consequences of actions--contributes to effective online control of behaviour. Our approach contrasts with the traditional focus of cognitive control research on tasks in which the goal is defined in terms of the response required rather than the effect that the response yields in the environment. Series B evaluates the hypothesis that reinforcement drives learning by feeding back a teaching signal to reactivate areas that successfully fulfilled the task at hand. Extending previous research, we focus specifically on reactivation of high-level task representations. Both series use novel paradigms that incorporate meaningful outcomes into competing cognitive tasks. Using tasks with dissociable neural correlates, neuroimaging methods can be used to probe the modulation of task-selective cortical regions according to anticipated and experienced action outcomes. Together these studies will reveal the pivotal role of action outcomes in the online control of human action and in the acquisition of complex behaviours.

Planned Impact

The primary goal of this project is to advance scientific theory and practice in the study of human voluntary action and cognitive control. The underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of goal-directed behaviour and learning are crucial to most higher-level mental faculties. Our findings therefore promise to have significant implications for measuring, understanding, and improving human learning and behaviour in a variety of basic science and applied contexts. Our ongoing collaborations and local collaborative opportunities provide specific pathways to impact for the proposed work. 1. Improving predictive cognitive markers throughout the lifespan Lab measures of cognitive control such as inhibition and working memory are predictive of educational success in childhood and of cognitive decline in ageing. Deepening our scientific understanding of underlying mechanisms will lead to more powerful tools for identifying key cognitive factors and targeting appropriate interventions. In particular, the central thesis of the present proposal is that existing approaches overlook a crucial factor in cognitive control: the nature of the goals to which our actions are directed. If confirmed, this idea would imply that current methods could be improved to more accurately probe cognitive control as it contributes to educational outcomes and quality of life in ageing. The Oxford Depts of Experimental Psychology and Education provide collaborative opportunities to develop this pathway to impact on evidence-based policy making through education and ageing research. 2. Probing decision making in gambling Studies of the mechanisms of reward and learning have contributed substantially to understanding pathological decision making in addiction and gambling. Our proposal provides valuable extensions of this research to investigate higher-level control of behaviour that begin to bridge between simplified lab paradigms and the complexity of real-world cognition and behaviour. Yeung's collaborative research investigating decision making and learning in gamblers provides a pathway for translating findings from the proposed research into more applied research with implications for improving wellbeing and quality of life. 3. Identifying cognitive markers for brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) BCI devices are finding increasing use in medical, military, and commercial settings. Neural markers of cognitive control and learning are particularly relevant to 'augmented cognition' devices that use real-time neuroimaging to optimise human performance. Yeung has an established industry collaboration on BCI development; for example, using neuroimaging markers of cognitive load in a BCI device that modulates the rate of information flow to intelligence analysts searching satellite imagery. This example illustrates the opportunities for commercialising our scientific findings to attract R&D investment from private sector business and industry for cutting edge technologies. 4. Increasing international collaboration The project would establish a new British-French collaboration, complementing and extending the PIs' existing collaborations with researchers in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands towards developing a strong international research network in this field. 5. Increasing public understanding A primary aim of the project is to forge stronger links between behaviours studied in the psychology lab and behaviour in the real world, extending lab paradigms to incorporate the crucial feature of everyday actions that they are fundamentally directed towards achieving identifiable outcomes. As such, the project offers valuable opportunities to increase public understanding of science in this field via presentations of the work to non-academic audiences.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The research funded on this grant investigated how people predict and learn from the consequences of their actions, using a combination of carefully designed computerised tasks, brain imaging measures, and computer models of the learning process. The key discoveries from the research are as follows:

1) When actions lead to positive outcomes such as rewards, unique patterns of learning and brain activity are triggered. When reward is delivered, preceding events such as the stimulus seen, the task performed, and the specific action chosen become linked strongly together (or "bound"). As a consequence, subsequent experience of one of these elements (e.g., seeing the same stimulus) leads to activation of all other elements. In the brain, we see this binding effect in terms of reward causing reactivation of patterns of brain activity corresponding to stimulus and response events. For example, if a person sees a blurred image but correctly recognises it as a face, when positive feedback is delivered we see activity in brain areas linked to visual processing of faces. We propose that this reactivation is crucial to learning correct associations between stimuli, tasks and actions-that is, it is crucial to learning how to act effectively and appropriately in the world.

2) People's ability to learn from feedback is strongly affected by their expectations about the task they are learning-in psychological terms, learning is influenced by starting knowledge and beliefs as much as by feedback provided. This idea contrasts with current theories of the learning process and how it operates in the brain. In our experiments, we asked people to learn simple rules which could change unpredictably (just as they do in the real world). We found that learning was influenced by simple instructions: When we told people that rules were unlikely to change, they tended to ignore negative feedback even when it was importantly signalling that they needed to change their behaviour. Conversely, telling them that rules were likely to change helped them learn new rules quickly, but led them to over-interpret negative feedback that was not actually informative. In the brain, we found correlates of these learning effects in terms of enhanced brain activity following feedback that people believed to be informative, regardless of how surprising and informative the feedback actually was.

Collectively, these results supported our initial hypothesis that high-level beliefs and goals strongly influence the learning process, and conversely that learning from rewards shapes the way we choose and perform actions. Our findings have been published in two scientific papers to date, with at least three further planned publications. In addition to these scientific discoveries, the research funded by this grant provided cutting-edge scientific training to a postdoctoral research scientist and ten student researchers. A workshop organised on the topic of the project brought together experts in a range of disciplines including education, clinical applications of neuroscience research, and social psychology, as well as over 100 delegates from around the world, to stimulate new ideas and to showcase our research findings.
Exploitation Route Our findings shed new light on basic mechanisms of human learning, with potentially widespread implications. Examples include:
1) In an ongoing project, we are developing cognitive training tasks that aim to improve complex problem solving ("fluid intelligence") in high-performing individuals. Insights from the BBSRC-funded research directly informed the design of this training, for example regarding inclusion of complex tasks relying on learning from feedback.
2) In a project in development, we aim to show that people do not only learn from feedback, but also learn about the properties of the feedback itself (e.g. about its reliability). This project will bridge from the current basic science to applications of the research in educational settings, where interpreting feedback (e.g., exam marks, teacher comments) is a crucial part of the learning process.
3) Our findings are applicable to understanding decision making in gambling. Existing research shows that problem gamblers often have mistaken beliefs, for example about their level of control over outcomes of their bets. The paradigms we have developed provide new ways to test this hypothesis and more precisely characterise how mistaken beliefs could lead to pathological disturbances of the learning process that maintain problematic gambling behaviours.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Healthcare

 
Description The primary goal of the grant-funded research is to advance scientific theory and practice in the study of human learning, voluntary action and cognitive control. Findings from the project have been published in four academic papers to date: an integrative review paper in the Journal of Physiology-Paris that sets out the theoretical basis for the research, an fMRI study of reward-related reactivation of sensory cortex published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience, a combined EEG and computational study of how feedback processing is influenced by high-level (instructed) knowledge about the task in NeuroImage, and an EEG study of predictive processing in a perceptual decision task published in Scientific Reports. The published papers have influenced ongoing research as evident in citations (total currently at 62) and invitations to present the research findings around the UK and overseas. The research was showcased at the workshop organised as part of the project, which established common ground between researchers in disparate fields that our research aimed to link. Feedback from workshop delegates (see Engagement Activities and Influence on Policy, Practice, Patients & the Public) indicate that we were successful in these aims, prompting new research ideas and cross-fertilisation of ideas across research domains. In the short-term, an important pathway to impact for this research has been through a subsequent funded project that aimed to develop cognitive training paradigms to improve complex problem solving ("fluid intelligence") in high-performing individuals. Fluid intelligence ability is a strong predictor of academic success, lifetime earnings and other significant life outcomes, such that enhancement through training could confer very valuable individual and societal benefits. Insights from the BBSRC-funded research directly informed the design of the cognitive training regime, for example regarding inclusion of complex tasks relying on learning from feedback. In the medium-term, a notable pathway to impact for the research is through educational applications of our discoveries about the role of high-level beliefs and knowledge on the learning process. The BBSRC-funded research showed that people interpret and use feedback very differently according to whether or not they perceive the feedback as informative. In educational settings, interpreting feedback (e.g., exam marks, teacher comments) is a crucial part of the learning process, but little is known about how this interpretative process takes place. A grant proposal exploring this topic was submitted to BBSRC last year and received positive reviews, but unfortunately was not funded. We are currently exploring other funding options for this project.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
 
Description Oxford Symposium on Outcome Prediction in Attention, Learning and Cognitive Control
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem Solving
Amount $1,343,961 (USD)
Organisation Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 01/2014 
End 11/2017
 
Description Florian Waszak - Paris Descartes 
Organisation University of Paris - Descartes
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The funded project established a new collaboration between Prof Nick Yeung at Oxford and Dr Florian Waszak at Paris Descartes University. The two researchers made equal contributions to the design, analysis and dissemination of the research conducted. Prof Yeung took the lead on day-to-day project management, e.g., supervision of the postdoctoral research fellow.
Collaborator Contribution In collaboration with Prof Yeung, Dr Waszak made equal contributions to the design, analysis and dissemination of the research conducted.
Impact Outcomes of the project are listed elsewhere, e.g., publications, organisation of the interdisciplinary workshop at Oxford.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Brain Awareness Week 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contributed to a public engagement event on "Sleep and the Brain" hosted at Oxford's Museum of the History of Science. I presented information about fMRI brain imaging, to an audience ranging in age from pre-schoolers to retirees. Explaining brain imaging methods and results to a public audience. N/A

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Contributor to Human Zoo programme on Radio 4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed for a Radio 4 documentary programme on Radio 4, the Human Zoo, which discussed people's ability to multi-task -- a key focus of this grant. The programme was broadcast on Tue March 5th at 3pm. Radio programme

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Discussant at RUSI / Atlantic Council event on "Staging the future: artificial intelligence and conflict" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact RUSI, the Atlantic Council and Central Saint Martins presented an immersive event in which creatives, AI experts and military and policymaker engaged in open conversation about the challenges, opportunities, and realities of AI over the next fifty years, and ask what its use will mean for defence and security. Taking a multidisciplinary, creative approach ensured that the essential human factors in future conflict are not lost, and new, different voices participated in the debate. Traditional approaches to understanding an issue as complex as AI and war can obfuscate critical elements necessary to reducing risk and harm, while preparing society for a step-change in cognitive and operational capabilities. My role was as a discussant on a panel considering "Soldiers 2.0: Engineering the Perfect Fighter".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://rusi.org/event/staging-future-artificial-intelligence-and-conflict-0
 
Description Human Brain Mapping - poster presentation - Hamburg 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Published abstract:
A.-M. Schiffer, F. Waszak, & N. Yeung (2014). Information on volatility influences adaptive behavior and feedback-related negativity. Proceedings of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) 20th Annual Meeting. JUN 8-12, 2014; Hamburg, Germany.
Presentation and discussion of findings arising from the project.

Dissemination of results to an international audience, included extended discussion with researchers from the US, as well as Dresden, Matarello, Magdeburg and Hannover in Europe, with continuing discussion via email subsequently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited research presentations (Cambridge, Durham, Oxford Brookes Universities) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research presentations at UK Universities by the postdoctoral researcher on the project (Dr Anne-Marike Schiffer), to showcase our research and as part of her professionsal development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Oxford Autumn School in Cognitive Neuroscience 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited lecture at a 2-day workshop held in Oxford on October 1-2 2015 that is aimed at introducing cutting edge research in Cognitive Neuroscience to an audience primarily comprising postgraduate students from a broad range of neuroscience backgrounds, but also attended by senior researchers, postdocs, and undergraduate students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Networking Event 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Poster presentation at Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Networking Event, 26 March 2015. The event provides a unique opportunity for researchers from industry and across the University of Oxford and its partner organisations to learn about and discuss recent breakthroughs,
research facilities and emerging scientific methodologies relevant to fundamental and applied bioscience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Oxford Symposium on Outcome Prediction in Attention, Learning and Cognitive Control 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop was a key pathway to impact for the funded research. As outlined in the original proposal, we organised a 2-day workshop that brought together a group of speakers whose research interests provide pathways to impact for our project -- researchers working on relevant animal models and computational approaches, and on applications of cognitive control research in social, educational and clinical settings. The speakers came from around the UK, as well as internationally from Australia, France, and the Netherlands. The event was attended by over 100 delegates, primarily academic researchers but also including representation from medical institutions and funding agencies (ESRC). Delegates were mostly UK-based, but included visitors from 7 other European countries. Complementing the high-profile speakers, poster sessions facilitated provided opportunities for graduate and postdoc-level attendees (as well as some senior academics) to present their research facilitate cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Delegate feedback on the symposium content included: "Excellent, wide coverage yet highly relevant", "The workshop comprised of an eclectic mix of academics covering a diverse range of disciplines. It was clear that the organisers sought to reach out beyond the immediate audience for the research and in doing so consider the relevance of the project for partners operating in different disciplines." "I thought it was an excellent selection of talks, all very good and from many different but converging angles. It happened a few times that questions I wanted to ask after one talk made the main topic of one of the next talks, so the whole workshop gave a very rounded view of the field. The posters, too, were great quality, coming from varied perspectives, informative and thought-provoking." "good mix of experimental techniques, translation and some modelling" "The organisers managed to successfully strike a delicate balance of exactly enough overlap in terms of research topics / interests to result in very fruitful cross-pollination and exchange of ideas" "was very interdisciplinary. I heard excellent talks from experimental psychology, neuroscience, as well as computational modelling. As such the workshop helped me form a much more integrated model of outcome prediction processes than i had before. Moreover, in the excellent poster sessions, I was able to talk to some of these researchers, and was able to link my own questions to theirs" "the workshop nicely showcased recent trends towards these lines of work coming together" "The mix of researchers working on really quite different topics within the broad framework of outcome prediction (with behavioural, neural and social backgrounds) was what made the meeting work so well"

Delegate feedback on specific impacts for them included: "Great! I met many people, learned a lot and received useful feedbacks about my research" "Attending the workshop enabled me to consider wider implications of outcome prediction research for a range of fields in both a theoretical and applied sense" "Very useful in terms of seeing the questions people are asking right now" "It gave me more recent information about the field and helped me shape some of my research questions better. It was very good value for time" "It was useful - new leads to follow..." "The poster session was a great opportunity to get feedback on my ongoing research, which is right at the intersection of cognitive control and reinforcement learning, and gave me lots of ideas for" "It provided a very useful index of the state of research in the field. I expect it is likely to inspire further experiments in our laboratory" "The conference was incredibly useful to me. I learned about various different approaches in the talks, and was able to link up with researchers in the poster session. I had many excellent discussions in the poster session, and was pointed to important papers that resolved some of the puzzles i came across in my research. I really enjoyed the conference. It was really well organised, with lots of opportunity for interaction." "My ongoing and future work is directly exactly at this interface between cognitive control in the classic sense and value-based decision making, so I greatly benefited from all the talks which each helped me understand yet another piece of the complex puzzle" "The Workshop covered several areas of cognitive sciences that are relevant for my PhD, it was really insightful" "As I presented a poster to people working on different topics with different methods and points of view, I received a lot of interesting feedback. Therefore, the workshop was very useful" "The meeting was very useful to me, largely because of its interdisciplinary nature. The topic of outcome prediction is so broad that a meeting like this is invaluable for bringing together researchers with diverse backgrounds (who would normally attend different conferences) but a common aim. It was great to have the chance to make contact with these people. In more concrete terms, I also received some useful suggestions regarding diections to take my own research in this area."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Postgraduate research training 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Four postgraduate (MSc) students in Oxford have conducted research projects in the lab. All gained experience of experimental psychology and/or neuroimaging methods including EEG and fMRI. All were given training in computer programming for experiment design, implementation and data analysis. One student is 2nd author on the first publication arising from the grant ("Reward activates stimulus-specific and task-dependent representations in visual association cortices"; in Journal of Neuroscience; A-M Schiffer et al.). Another student is named author on a manuscript currently in the peer review process.

- Our first MSc student went on to a doctoral position using methods (fMRI) he first used in the BBSRC project
- Two other MSc students are currently applying for PhD positions in Psychology/Neuroscience
- A further student, an established Law academic, is now pursuing research opportunities in the interaction between Law and research Psychology, and we continue to collaborate on those projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
 
Description Presentation on "How to organise a brain" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk given to the Wellington Cambridge Society (Wellington, NZ) on September 10th 2012. This was a public engagement talk on the central themes of the grant research, on the principles governing the organisation of the human brain as it performs cognitive tasks. N/A

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Presentation to Oxford University UNIQ summer school, Biomedical Sciences 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The UNIQ summer school caters to high-achieving students in the state sector, with lectures given by Oxford researchers to students interested in particular degree courses -- here Biomedical Sciences. The lecture introduced the students to this area of research (on cognitive control and frontal lobe function), raising awareness of this field and sparking questions and discussion.

Impact would become evident later in terms of applications to Oxford or interest in the Neuroscience stream of our Biomedical Sciences degree. However, there is no formal system by which this information can be tracked.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Rovereto Attention Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Poster presentation: A.-M. Schiffer, F. Waszak, N. Yeung (2013). Information on the Volatility of Current States Influences the Feedback-related Negativity in a Reversal-learning Task. Rovereto Attention Workshop


Started discussion and exchange of ideas, still ongoing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Rovereto Workshop on Concepts, Actions, and Objects 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Poster presentation: A.-M. Schiffer, N. Yeung, F. Waszak (2012). Topdown reactivation of task-set representations -­ an fMRI study. Rovereto Workshop on Concepts, Actions, and Objects.

Dissemination of research findings. Also valuable feedback on the research, including suggestions for data analysis that were included in the final published study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting 2014 (Washington DC) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral presentation with published abstract:
A.-M. Schiffer, F. Waszak, &; N. Yeung (2014). Feedback processing is adaptive to information on volatility. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts No.678.05. November 15-19, 2014; Washington DC.
Presentation and discussion of findings arising from the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Undergraduate research internships 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Undergraduate students in Psychology at Oxford have contributed to the research and thereby gained valuable experience of scientific research, and in psychology/neuroscience in particular. They gained hands-on experience with a variety of research methods, including cognitive/behavioural testing, EEG recording, and fMRI. All students were trained in computer programming (Matlab) for experimental design and data analysis.
- Two students participated for their degree's research project. They gained experience, and the project contributed to their degree classification.
- Four students contributed as summer interns in the lab. All had a stated interest in pursuing postgraduate research, so this was a very valuable opportunity to gain relevant experience and learn more about research careers. Two of the students commented specifically how the training helped them prepare for their postgraduate careers (in academic research and medicine).

One research intern has now completed her degree, and gone on to an MSc degree in Demography and Health, and Epidemiology. Three others are in their final year of the degree, two applying for postgraduate research and one for postgraduate medicine.
Feedback includes:
"Working in the ACC lab over the summer has provided me with much deeper insights into the working life of a researcher in psychology. Particularly how to communicate with and test participants. I have also had the oppor
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015