Michael S. C. Thomas is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Birkbeck, University of London and is the Director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience.
His primary interests are in cognitive and language development, both in terms of developmental processes in children and in the final cognitive structures they produce in the adult. He currently leads the Developmental Neurocognition lab, as part of Birkbeck’s Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development.
The goal of his research is to understand the nature and causes of cognitive variability – that is, why children become cleverer as they get older, why children of the same age can differ in their ability, and what causes the extremes of variation such as giftedness and developmental disabilities. In many cases, this leads to a consideration of the nature-nurture question – the respective contributions of genetics and the environment both to driving development and to producing differences in developmental trajectories between individuals.
His research in educational neuroscience has addressed several topics. His main position is that current psychological theory is in some respects not fit for purpose with respect to education, because it has not been sufficiently influenced by an understanding of how the brain works. His work has addressed overviews of the field and its general direction (e.g., here, here, here), including current debates in the field (see here). He has published work examining how our current understanding of sensitive periods in brain development might influence syllabus design and educational policy, including the education of adults (see here, here, and here). He has also discussed how fields such as genetics and methods such as computational modelling may advance the field of educational neuroscience, contributing to the recent volume edited by Mareschal and colleagues entitled Educational Neuroscience. One of his current projects, funded by the Department of Health and led by Imperial College, is investigating the effect of mobile phone use on teenage brain development.
Finally, Michael has other lines of research that focus on developmental disorders of language and cognition (e.g., see here), and on general developmental theory (see here and here). One of his recent projects in this field, funded by the ESRC, investigated the causes of problems in productive vocabulary in children (so called ‘word finding difficulties’), and evaluated different interventions to alleviate these difficulties (see here).
Please see the list below for the some of Prof. Thomas’ most recent publications. More information about Prof. Thomas including a more extensive publication list can be found here.
- Thomas, M. S. C. (2016). Do more intelligent brains retain heightened plasticity for longer in development? A computational investigation. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 258-269.
- Howard-Jones, P., Varma, S., Ansari, D., Butterworth, B., De Smedt, B., Goswami, U., Laurillard, D., & Thomas, M. S. C. (2016). The principles and practices of educational neuroscience: Commentary on Bowers. Psychological Review 2016, Vol. 123, No. 5, 620–627.
- Thomas, M. S. C., Kovas, Y., Meaburn, E., & Tolmie, A. (2015). What can the study of genetics offer to educators? Mind, Brain and Education, 9(2), 72-80. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12077
- Thomas, M. S. C., Davis, R., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Knowland, V. C. P., & Charman, T. (2015). The over-pruning hypothesis of autism. Developmental Science. 2015 Apr 6. doi: 10.1111/desc.12303. Epub ahead of print
- Best, W., Fedor, A., Hughes, L., Kapikian, A., Masterson, J., Roncoli, S., Fern-Pollak, L., & Thomas, M. S. C. (2015). Intervening to alleviate word-finding difficulties in children: Case series data and a neurocomputational foundation. Cognitive Neuropsychology. Published on-line 25 Feb 2015.
- Thomas, M. S. C., Forrester, N. A., & Ronald, A. (2015). Multi-scale modeling of gene-behavior associations in an artificial neural network model of cognitive development. Cognitive Science. 3 APR 2015. doi:10.1111/cogs.12230
- Knowland, V. C. P., Purser, H. & Thomas, M. S. C. (2015). Applications of cross-sectional methodologies in developmental psychology. In J. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences. (2nd Edition). Elsevier.
- Thomas, M. S. C. & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2014). Neurodevelopmental Disorders (SAGE Library in Developmental Psychology). London: SAGE Publications Ltd. [5 volume set]
- Knowland, V. C. P., & Thomas, M. S. C. (2014). Educating the adult brain: How the neuroscience of learning can inform educational policy. International Review of Education, 60, 99-122.
- Thomas, M. S. C., & Laurillard, D. (2014). Computational modelling of learning and teaching. In: D. Mareschal, A. Tolmie & B. Butterworth, Educational Neuroscience, (p. 46-76). Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley.
Filippi, R., Morris, J., Richardson, F. M., Bright, P., Thomas, M. S. C., Karmiloff-Smith, A., & Marian, V. (2014). Bilingual children show an advantage in controlling verbal interference during spoken language comprehension. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. doi:10.1017/S1366728914000686
- Thomas, M. S. C. & Knowland, V. C. P. (2014). Modelling mechanisms of persisting and resolving delay in language development. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57(2), 467-483. DOI:10.1044/2013_JSLHR-L-12-0254. PMID: 24129016
Thomas, M. S. C., Ronald, A., & Forrester, N. A. (2013). Modelling socio-economic status effects on language development. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication.
- Thomas, M. S. C. (2013). Educational neuroscience in the near and far future: Predictions from the analogy with the history of medicine. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 2, 23-26.
- Thomas, M. S. C. (2012). Brain plasticity and education. British Journal of Educational Psychology – Monograph Series II: Educational Neuroscience, 8, 142-156.
- Filippi, R., Leech, R., Thomas, M. S. C., Green, D. W., & Dick, F. (2012). A bilingual advantage in controlling language interference during sentence comprehension. Bilingualism: Language & Cognition.
- Ramsden, S., Richardson, F. M., Josse, G., Thomas, M. S. C., Ellis, C., Shakeshaft, C., Seghier, M. L., & Price, C. J. (2011). Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brain. Nature, 479, 113-116. (3 November 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10514
- Thomas, M. S. C. (2011). From brain scan to lesson plan. Public Service Review: UK Science and Technology, Issue 4, 15 December 2011.
- Thomas, M. S. C. & Knowland, V. (2009). Sensitive periods in brain development: Implications for education policy. European Psychiatric Review, 2(1), 17-20.