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‘The Human Brain Has Always Fascinated Me’

‘The Human Brain Has Always Fascinated Me’

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Alexios Kouzalis, from Cyprus, is a first-year PhD student at the HSE University School of Psychology. We talked with Alexis about his reasons for coming to HSE Moscow, his achievements and his observations on life in the Russian capital.

Alexis Kouzalis

My ties with Russian culture begin way back in time. During the 1970s my father and two of his brothers were granted scholarships to study in Moscow in what was back then the Soviet Union. Tradition is a very important value in Cyprus, so in a way I am following the tradition of my family. I am a member of the Cypriot-Russian Association of Friendship and Cultural Relations and I have a decent knowledge of the Russian language and its culture. All these factors contributed to my choice of Russia as the place for my studies. 

I was looking for a Neuroscience programme in Russia and at the time only HSE University was offering such an option

After looking it up, I was delighted to find out that HSE happens to be one of the most reputable universities in Russia. I applied for a scholarship to the Russian Cultural Centre in Nicosia and after my application was accepted, I applied for the Neuroscience programme at HSE. Being accepted was not difficult. What I found more difficult, however, was the bureaucracy involved in both attaining a scholarship and entering Russian Federation as a student. 

I have a decent knowledge of the Russian language (speaking, reading, writing) but definitely not at the level necessary to study some difficult scientific terms and write a thesis. This is why I preferred to choose an English course instead of a Russian one. 

The Mixture of Subjects

The human brain and the way it functions has been fascinating for me since my early adulthood. I always wanted to know about the inner mechanisms governing our thoughts, feelings and drives. Neuroscience is a mixture of subjects including psychology, biology, computer programming, and many others.

In combination the purpose is to decipher the workings of the mind on a molecular level in order to explain our everyday behavior 

Personally, I like teachers who are dealing with their occupation in a relaxed manner because for me knowledge can only be transmitted in a positive way. But again, this is just my personal preference and in the end, it is nothing more than a matter of taste. 

Research Projects

I have been working on the issue of functional magnetic resonance imaging signal associated with brain areas. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is all about using a microscope to be able to unravel all the secrets behind what each one of us perceives as his own personal everyday experience.

Our results can be used by researchers who are dedicated to finding effective treatments for a wide range of disturbances of the mind and psyche. 

The research is organized perfectly at HSE University. At the moment, I am a collaborator of the NeuropsyLab and my role was to collect, process and analyze data from participants in the study. The head of the lab, Associate Professor Marie Arsalidou, is an individual with exceptional managing skills and I am very fortunate and at the same time grateful to collaborate with her. 


I am currently living in the HSE dormitory 7. What I like about Moscow is that it is a highly populated city where you can find people from all sorts of ethnicities, cultures, statuses, mindsets, and backgrounds.

I see this as an open door for many opportunities. I have managed to visit most of the popular places in the center of Moscow and some places in the suburbs as well. For the people close to me, who might come to Moscow, I would make sure they would get an experience of the side of Moscow which the big majority have rejected. I believe this is the only place left nowadays where they will be able to find the pearls of the Russian soul. 

Admissions to HSE’s Bachelor's and Master’s programmes are now open. International students can apply online. To learn more about HSE University, its admission process, or life in Moscow, please visit International Admissions website, or contact the Education & Training Advisory Centre at: inter@hse.ru, or via WhatsApp at: +7 (916) 311 8521.

Undergraduate applicants can take mock exams online to evaluate their chances of being accepted. Graduate applicants can register for preliminary portfolio assessment.

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