Using trans-cranical Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to shape behaviour
Trans-cranical Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) applies a small current across cortex which has been demonstrated to alter neuroplasticity. This plasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt over time, e.g. in learning a new skill or habit. tDCS can enhance or inhibit this plasticity, and the enhanced plasticity can then be recruited by a person’s activity to help learn that activity.
This PhD project will use tDCS to experimentally manipulate perception-action learning. Learning a new motor skill requires learning to perceive new perceptual information and reorganising your movements to accommodate this new information and perform the new task. Research has demonstrated that learning simple motor tasks benefits from tDCS. This project will use a more ecologically valid task coordinated rhythmic movement (e.g. Wilson, Snapp-Childs & Bingham, 2010). We will test the effects of tDCS on learning and transfer of learning in this task, and interpret the results in the context of a dynamical systems model of the task (e.g. Snapp-Childs, Wilson & Bingham, 2011). We will also investigate whether tDCS can help overcome recently identified age-related deficits in learning this task (the ‘50s cliff, e.g. Coates et al, 2014).
Experiments will present stimuli, and record and analyse data using Matlab. You will be trained in tDCS, movement analysis, programming and experimental techniques in cognitive/biological psychology, as well as a variety of statistical analyses. This project would suit a student interested in experimental psychology and/or the ecological approach and embodied cognition (e.g. Wilson & Golonka, 2013).
Coates, R. O., Wilson, A. D., Snapp-Childs, W., Fath, A. J., & Bingham, G. P. (2014). The 50s cliff: Perceptuo-motor learning rates across the lifespan. PLOSOne, 9(1), e85758. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085758.
Snapp-Childs, W., Wilson, A. D., & Bingham, G. P. (2011). The stability of rhythmic movement coordination depends on relative speed: The Bingham model supported. Experimental Brain Research, 215, 89-100.
Wilson, A. D., & Golonka, S. (2013). Embodied Cognition is Not What you Think It Is. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.
Wilson, A. D., Snapp-Childs, W., & Bingham, G. P. (2010). Perceptual learning immediately yields new stable motor coordination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36(6), 1508-1514.