CEN Research Group autumn schedule now available

The CEN Research Group, which is open to those interested in the latest developments in educational neuroscience, meets weekly at 4pm on Thursday afternoons.

Our autumn schedule is now available here. The first meeting is on Thursday 15th October, with a presentation from Dr. Ben Shaw from the University of Westminster. On 22nd October, Sarah Punshon will be talking about her new Wellcome-Funded project: “Getting stuck, going wrong and being stupid: could a theatrical adventure impact children’s beliefs about their mathematical brains?”


The CEN Research Group is open to faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and students at Birkbeck and UCL (especially those on the Educational Neuroscience and Developmental Sciences masters, and PhD students studying relevant topics). It is also open to educationalists, educational psychologists, and interested teachers. Meetings aim to enable an atmosphere of informal discussion of the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, and their relevance to education. If you would like to attend, please contact us at: centre4educationalneuroscience@gmail.com

Public lecture on Genetics and Education 18th November 2015

Michael Thomas, Director of CEN, and Dr. Emma Meaburn, will give the Inaugural Annual Learnus Lecture, on the topic of Genetics and Education, on 18th November at 6.30pm, at Harvey Goodwin Suite, Church House, Dean’s Yard London SW1P 3NZ. The lecture will explore the potential contribution of modern genetic methods and findings to education. Here’s the flier:

Learnus Inaugural Annual Lecture


Summer seminar at CEN: 12-1pm, August 5th, Birkbeck: Prof. Yi-Yuan Tang on ‘Training Attention and Self-regulation’


Professor Yi-Yuan Tang, visiting from Texas Tech University, USA, will give a seminar at the the CEN on Wednesday, 12-1pm on August 5th, at Birkbeck (Room 153, Malet Street building), with a buffet lunch afterwards.

The seminar will be on “Training Attention and Self-regulation: Brain Mechanisms and Applications”.

Abstract: “Attention and self-regulation play an important role in learning and education. It remains largely unknown how to train these capacities effectively. This talk will introduce two types of training methods – state training and network training. Network training involves practice of a specific task (e.g., attention, working memory) repeatedly and thus exercising its specific brain network. State training uses practice (e.g., physical exercise or mindfulness meditation) to develop a brain state that may influence the operations of many networks. State training certainly involves networks, but it is not designed to train networks using a cognitive task. Research has shown that both types of training can improve attention, cognitive control, emotion regulation and neuroplasticity. I will discuss the brain mechanisms and applications of these types of training in learning and education.”

All welcome.

New Programme in Educational Neuroscience

The new programme in Educational Neuroscience is delivered jointly by Birkbeck University of London and the UCL-Institute of Education in central London

The department of Psychological Sciences offers a range of 1 year Full Time ( 2 year Part Time) Masters programmes that provide focussed and cutting edge postgraduate level training in the areas of the department’s research strengths. Topics include:

Educational Neuroscience  and Developmental Sciences.

The MSc programmes are designed to prepare students for a career in research whereas the MA programmes are designed to deepen student’s level of understanding of the chosen speciality. Part-time programmes are normally available on a day-release basis over 2 years.

Further information can be obtained from the links above. Informal inquiries can also be directed to psychologypg@bbk.ac.uk


CEN at the London Festival of Education


Learnus and the CEN ran a stimulating session on ‘Neuroscience and Education: The new dialogue’ at the recent London Festival for Education. Richard Newton-Chance, Jeremy Dudman-Jones and Michael Thomas spoken to an audience packed to the rafters, on the exciting times ahead for educators and neuroscientists alike. The subsequent discussion was passionate, with some embracing the idea that the new learning sciences had much to offer education, others keen to reject neuroscience as fostering ‘reductionism and determinism’ (‘Not true!’ cried MT), and others with specific questions about current knowledge of the effects of training working memory.


An Introduction to Educational Neuroscience at the UCL Institute of Education

The CEN is running a 1-day introductory course on Educational Neuroscience on Saturday 9th May 2015 at the UCL Institute of Education. It will be taught by Prof Michael Thomas (Birkbeck), Prof Denis Mareschal (Birkbeck), Dr Iroise Dumontheil (Birkbeck), Dr Chloë Marshall (UCL IOE) and Prof Andy Tolmie (UCL IOE).

Further information can be found here:


PhD studentship: Enhancing success on science and maths problems

Two members of the CEN, Dr. Emily Farran (UCL IOE) and Dr. Iroise Dumontheil (Birkbeck) have obtained funding for a PhD studentship investigating the role of local and global processing in the learning of maths and science at primary school level. Applications are now invited for this studentship.

The deadline for applications is March 23rd. Interviews will be held on the morning of March 26th. A decision will be taken the following week.

Please contact Dr. Iroise Dumontheil if you have questions (i.dumontheil@bbk.ac.uk) or Click here for more information.


Prof. Franck Ramus is the CEN’s first invited speaker for spring 2015

We are pleased to announce that Prof. Franck Ramus (Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Institute of Cognitive Studies, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris) will be presenting some of his recent research on the brain basis of dyslexia  on Wednesday 7th January, 4-5:15pm, in Room 802 at the UCL-Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London. All are welcome to join us, and there is no need to book.

The title of Franck’s talk, and the abstract, are as follows:

Neuroanatomy of developmental dyslexia

This talk will review our recent research on the neuroanatomical differences between dyslexic and control children, covering voxel-based morphometry, analyses of cortical thickness and surface, white matter tractography, morphometry of the planum temporale, and analyses of gyrification patterns. I will further discuss consistencies and inconsistencies between our results and previously published research, and future perspectives.


Does non-invasive brain stimulation produce a cognitive enhancement? Depends!

A new paper published by Amar Sarkar, Ann Dowker, and Roi Cohen Kadosh has shown that identical transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) exerts opposite behavioural and physiological effects depending on individual trait levels. Recent studies have suggested that non-invasive brain stimulation can accelerate skill acquisition in complex tasks and may provide an alternative or addition to other training methods. However, the Sarker study suggests that zapping your brain might make you better at maths tests – or worse. It depends how anxious you are about taking the test in the first place. See here for the Sarker paper and here for a recent commentary in the New Scientist about a new meta-analysis which has struggled to find out what actual physiological effect tDCS has on the brain.


(Note, this image is Doc Brown from the film Back to the Future, not actual tDCS!)