International Conference on Educational Neuroscience, Emirates College for Advanced Education – February 28 to 29, 2016

by Claudine Habak, PhD., Mohamed Seghier, PhD., & Mohamed Fahim, PhD.
Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Emirates College for Advanced Education, Abu Dhabi, UAE

ECAE’s first International Conference on Educational Neuroscience served to bring together education and neuroscience, where emerging science is presented, across the domains of brain, mind, and education. The conference was designed to learn from experts, collaborate with peers, and explore new neuroimaging tools and technologies. The conference was organized over two days, with poster sessions and e-posters, afternoon workshops, and morning talks.

Talk sessions encompassed areas of neuroscience that carry implications for education, including brain plasticity, development, and learning, with leading researchers from across the world invited to give talks.

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Group picture of speakers at the 1st International Conference on Educational Neuroscience

Day one opened with Dr. Maurice Ptito, from University of Montreal & University of Copenhagen; his keynote on Transcranial magnetic stimulation
of the visual cortex in congenital blindness, where he discussed how the blind brain rewires itself and how advances in technology allow the congenitally-blind brain to “see” through tactile stimulation of the tongue.

This was followed by Dr. Sami Boudelaa, from UAE University, focusing on Arabic language acquisition in a talk entitled Mapping the brain to harness
the mind: Using behavioural and imaging data to inform educational practice. He demonstrated the importance of morphological processing in order to link word form to word structure, and ultimately to design efficient teaching methods of Arabic.

The talk session ended with, Dr. Miriam Nokia, from the University of Jyväskylä, with Electrophysiological signatures of learning in the hippocampus, addressing how learning can be stronger or weaker, depending on when stimulus associations are presented during oscillations of brain activity in the regions associated with memory.

Day two opened with a keynote by Dr. Kerry Lee, from the National Institute of Education Singapore, on Age related differences in the influences of domain-general and domain-specific variables on mathematical achievement, where the dynamic and age-dependent relationships between working memory and mathematical performance were discussed.

This was followed by Dr. Sam Wass, from Cambridge University & University of East London, and his work on Learning and the Autonomic Nervous System: understanding interactions between stress, concentration and learning during early childhood. This discussed how stress and concentration develop in young children, particularly how stress can interact with learning capacities in very young children.

The morning continued with Dr. Sid Kouider, from the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris, discussing Using EEG to track consciousness, surprise, and metacognition in the infant brain, where babies’ and toddlers’ awareness of their expectations is shown through their actions and brain activity patterns in EEG, including the identification of electrophysiological markers of error detection during the first year of life.

The day proceeded with Dr. Diogo Almeida, from New York University Abu Dhabi, discussing Neuromagnetic investigations of lexical access, which presented MEG signatures of lexical retrieval during visual word recognition. The talk also discussed the role of vowel diacritics in forming the sounds and meanings of words in Arabic.

The talk sessions ended with Dr. Hellmuth Obrig, from the Max Planck Institute, who addressed Acquiring and applying phonological regularities during language acquisition: evidence from combined EEG and fNIRS measurements. This explained how sounds are organized during language development and how EEG and fNIRS are used to better understand these processes, particularly those processes involved during the segmentation of speech.

Posters covered various cellular, developmental, and functional topics, including changes in health on brain structure, and on cognitive function, effects of perceptual content on task completion and brain activity, bilingual language processing, neurodegeneration, neuronal plasticity, the monitoring of mathematical skills in an educational setting, and the importance of identifying systemic brain biomarkers for learning difficulties.

The day-one workshop focused on hands-on experience in data collection of simultaneous EEG and fNIRS recordings, with Brain Products’ active electrodes and LiveAmp set-up, and NIRx’s Scout systems. The second workshop built on the first, by engaging participants in an interactive session on the effects of TMS (MagVenture) on brain activity with simultaneous EEG and fNIRS observations.

Brain Products, NIRx, and C&P International kindly sponsored part of the event and provided equipment, software, and licenses, for the practical sessions, which were essential for the EEG and fNIRS data collection sessions. MagVenture also provided equipment and software for the TMS practical session.

Attendees traveled from various parts of the world to present their posters, attend the talks, and participate in the workshops. Conference abstracts will be published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. The event was extremely well received with high demand for an encore. The next conference with workshops will run in the winter of 2017, for further information, stay tuned to www.edneuro.ecae.ac.ae or contact one of the organizers from ECAE’s Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Claudine Habak, Mohamed Seghier, or Mohamed Fahim by email.

©Brain Products GmbH 2016

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