December’s Macquarie Minds Showcase brings together a compelling group of visionaries, researchers and experts to discuss how we can shape a brighter future. In the lead up, we are bringing you insights from Macquarie Minds presenters.
Neuroscience research is undergoing a revolution, thanks to the recent proliferation of EEG headsets used to record brain activity for video gaming. We sat down with ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders Postdoctoral Research Fellow Nicholas Badcock in advance of his hands-on workshop to understand the concept of “readiness to learn” and the many benefits of connecting children and adults with their optimal learning or working states.
What drew you to your research field?
I grew up in a family of teachers – my Gran, parents, aunty, uncle, and now my sister and three cousins are teachers – which likely shaped my value for education. Then I studied psychology in year 12 and it seemed that understanding cognition and the brain might not only be able to help people who struggle with learning but maybe even augment the process for all individuals. I find this important and exciting.
What would be an ‘elevator pitch’ of your research area?
Readiness to learn fluctuates in all individuals. Some people are early birds and some are night owls, but readiness also varies from hour to hour and minute to minute. Imagine if we could measure this readiness then alert learners and their teachers when they’re ready to learn. It could be as subtle as a buzz from wearable technology or a little ‘louder’ with a flashing sign over the student’s head, letting the teacher know to ‘Teach me now!’. My research is aimed at understanding these patterns and implementing the technology.
In layman’s terms, what is the wider impact of your research?
Connecting children and adults with their optimal learning or working states will lead to more efficient education and work places. We’ve all had those days or afternoons when we’re just not into it. It’s likely we’d be better off switching tasks, doing something to re-motivate ourselves, or maybe it’s a sign that we’re getting sick and we should head home to rest. Alerting people to this information in a measurable and scientifically supported form will benefit the individuals as well as those with whom they interact. It would result in increased productivity but a wider implementation of this research would increase wellbeing, reducing negative physical and mental health outcomes.
Who has been your most significant research mentor?
Gen McArthur. She’s gone above and beyond to help me and my family settle in Sydney, and then there are the hours spent work-shopping ideas and being available, realistic, and excited about what we do.
If you were given one million dollars in research funding, what would be the first thing you would do?
Our research is a big task which will require lots of data from lots of people in lots of situations so one million dollars would allow us to employ research assistants to speed this up and get us closer to putting it in classrooms.
What has been your favourite and/or proudest research moment?
My favourite moments are when I’ve helped someone with a tricky task like programming, then they go off and expand on it, demonstrating that the help has spring-boarded them well beyond the original assistance.
Register for Nicholas’ workshop When Gaming Meets Neuroscience: Unlocking The Potential Of Mind Mapping Using Mobile EEG as part of the Macquarie Minds Showcase, 13-14 December.