HSE University Center for Language and Brain Becomes World Leader in Just 10 Years
How can a small Russian research group become a world-famous scientific centre in less than a decade? A special edition of the Frontiers in Psychology journal devoted to increasing public awareness of neuroscience features an article about the HSE University Center for Language and Brain, including the successes and challenges of its early years.
Russia’s linguistic and neuropsychology schools have trained numerous famous figures in their respective fields. However, in the 21st century, only a small number of research groups in Russia have looked into areas that combine the two: psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics. Less than a decade ago, a small group of researchers led by Olga Dragoy began working in these fields. In the short time since, the group has grown into the HSE University Center for Language and Brain—a major scientific institution.
In the Frontiers in Psychology article, the Center’s staff share their experiences and turn a critical eye on their successes and failures. One notable example was the project to create the Russian Aphasia Test. The researchers now admit that their initial idea was too ambitious, and that young research groups are better off focusing on smaller-scale research that requires fewer resources. At the same time, the creation of the test is one example of the successful combination of research and clinical practice.
In addition to their research, the Centre’s staff also discuss their educational activities—such as assigning annual term papers to students. While a standard practice in Russia, it is less common in other countries. Term papers give junior students an opportunity to conduct research and gain experience before enrolling in doctoral programmes—experience that students in many other countries lack
Olga Dragoy, Director of the Center for Language and Brain
‘Flexibility in your research interests at the start of your academic career can pay off. If an opportunity presents itself to work on a topic that you weren’t originally interested in, give it a go anyway—it may end up having long-term potential and becoming something you love.'
The article shares experience and recommendations to help young research groups in Russia and abroad, inspire them, and offer guidance in decision-making and setting priorities when creating similar research centres.
According to Svetlana Malyutina, Senior Research Fellow of the Center for Language and Brain, ‘One of the best investments a young research group can make is to recruit and communicate with students. Sure, it takes up precious time and effort, but it pays off in the end—talented students are the driving force behind countless projects.’
The stronger the functional brain connections, the less inclined someone is to punish others for unfair behaviour. This conclusion was reached by HSE researchers following a neuroimaging experiment. Their paper ‘Wired to punish? Electroencephalographic study of the resting-state neuronal oscillations underlying third-party punishment’ was published in the journal Neuroscience.
Researchers from the HSE Centre for Cognition & Decision Making have developed a computational model of working memory and demonstrated the stabilizing effect of gamma oscillations, as well as the importance of fast interaction between the model components. The study results have the potential to become part of a theoretical basis for experiments on improving working memory functions with non-invasive brain stimulation. The study was published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits .
The Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience (ICN) at HSE University has recently added state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to its range of tools for studying brain function. The News Service visited the Institute to learn more about the uses of infrared lasers, optical tomography and a unique robotic arm, as well as why research into vascular tone is important, which parts of the brain can be stimulated to make people more generous, and how the Institute’s research can help treat diseases.
Researchers from HSE University and Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have discovered how the theta rhythm of the brain and the gender differences in attitudes to risk are linked. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the researchers addressed which processes can be explained by knowing this connection.
The first International Conference on Social Neurology in Environmentally Sound Conditions, organized by the International Laboratory of Social Neurobiology of the Institute of Cognitive Neurosciences and Aalto University will be held online on June 21-23, 2021. The HSE News Service spoke with conference organisers and some of the key speakers in the run-up to the conference about its agenda and some research highlights.
The HSE Laboratory for Neurobiological Foundations of Cognitive Development (Neuropsy Lab) is one of 13 winners of the HSE Mirror Laboratories Competition and the only lab headed by an international faculty member. The Neuropsy Lab’s partner institution is the Scientific and Educational Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Art Technologies based out of Ulyanovsk State University. The HSE Look spoke about this collaboration with the lab’s head – Dr Marie Arsalidou, Associate Professor at the HSE School of Psychology.
What is affect and why is it important for humans? How can feelings be defined and what is their relation to emotions and consciousness? What might be used in making a soft robot? Professor Antonio Damasio (University of Southern California, USA) discussed these and other questions in his honorary lecture, entitled 'Feeling, Knowing, and Artificial Intelligence'.The talk was delivered on April 16 at the at the XXII April International Academic Conference held by HSE University jointly with Sberbank.
Using transcranial magnetic stimulation, Russians scientists were able to precisely track inter-muscle interactions between cortical representations of arm muscles. In the future, this method will help track brain changes in patients with motor disorders. The study was published in Human Brain Mapping. The project was supported by the Presidential Programme of the Russian Science Foundation (RSF).
‘In the Blink of an Eye’ Statistics: People Estimate Size of the Set of Objects Based on Distance to Them
HSE University researchers Yuri Markov and Natalia Tiurina discovered that when people visually estimate the size of objects, they are also able to consider their distance from the observer, even if there are many such objects. The observers rely not only on the objects’ retinal representation, but also on the surrounding context. The paper was published in the journal Acta Psychologica.
Scientists at HSE University have learned that disagreeing with the opinion of other people leaves a ‘trace’ in brain activity, which allows the brain to later adjust its opinion in favour of the majority-held point of view. The article was published in Scientific Reports.