The Laboratory of Neuropsychology and Human Neuroscience’s research focuses on (1) what and how experiences induce beneficial neuroplastic changes, and (2) the neurocognitive and neuro-affective underpinnings of functions that define the human nature of an individual. The goal of our Lab is to create knowledge that contributes to promoting brain health and psychological health.
Neuroplasticity (otherwise known as neural or brain plasticity) is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change according to experiences. These experience-induced changes range from the generation and modification of synapses, to larger-scale adjustments in cortical remapping and functional reorganization. In turn, these structural and functional changes enable humans to adapt their behavioral outputs to meet situational challenges. Thus, neuroplasticity underpins mental and behavioral flexibility that marks brain and psychological health.
In our Lab, we have examined how experiences lead to structural-functional changes of the brain affecting behaviors.
Neuro-cognitive and -affective processes underpin cognitive and affective regulation. Our Lab utilizes social-cognitive-affective principles to understand a range of everyday phenomena. We also investigate processes that have undergone pathological changes leading to cognitive and/or affective dysregulation in clinical populations.
The brain is a vital organ that coordinates thoughts and feelings to produce an integral sense of self and psychological well-being. However, our brain health can be challenged by natural processes such as ageing, or in cases of trauma and neurodegenerative conditions.
The brain goes through a series of changes during natural aging, causing adverse impacts on our cognitive and affective functioning. In the cognitive domain, gradual weakness in neurocognitive abilities, such as processing speed, attention, and memory, is common. Associated with these neurocognitive changes are age-related changes in brain structures and functions. Older people suffering from pathological aging, such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or different forms of dementia, experience significant functional decline in their neurocognitive and affective processes.
Our line of research on ageing compares the cognitive and affective functioning in healthy and clinical populations (e.g. those with MCI, dementia, and/or Alzheimer’s Disease). In addition, we are interested in examining how ageing renders our vulnerability to loneliness and depression.
The World Health Organization defines psychological health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes their potential, can cope with daily stressors effectively, work productively, and contribute to their community fruitfully. Yet stress has become an inevitable component of our daily living, accompanied by an escalating sense of loneliness among people from all walks of life. While some of us can rebound from the detrimental effects of stress and loneliness, there are others whose resilience is not of sufficient strength to protect them from developing mood disorders. What happens when we face overwhelming stress, either caused by chronic issues or major life events? What about when we feel lonely for a prolonged period of time? Do such experiences unanimously result in the development of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety? The Lab endeavors to answer such questions via research projects on stress, loneliness, depression, and resilience.
Stress can come from our environment, our body, or even our thoughts. Events such as natural disasters, health concerns, unforeseen changes with our relationships, work, or school, can throw us off our balance and overwhelm our stress response. When we are under stress, our body exhibits a neurophysiological response to help us cope with the perceived threat at hand. However, chronic stress renders our vulnerability to mental health conditions, in addition to an array of long-term health problems.
Broadly speaking, our line of research studies the impact of stress on structural and functional brain connectivity, in addition to its effects on overall cognitive and affective functioning.
Ongoing Research Projects
Research on Emotional Processing and Pons in Depression and Anxiety
Funding Agency: National Center for Protein Sciences — Beijing
Psychological Resilience and Mental Wellness: Effects of Internal Neurobiological Affective and External Social Support Systems
Funding Agency: Research Grant Council Collaborative Research Fund
Human Affective Processing Network: The Role of Pons
Funding Agency: Ministry of Science and Technology