We want to inspire primary school children to think about how marvellous the human brain is so each year we hold an art competition during Brain Awareness Week (March). School children from around Australia are invited to create an artwork inspired by completing the thought: ‘I use my brain to…’
Category 1. Foundation year (Prep) and Year 1
1st place: Stefanie K, VIC
2nd place: Tess L QLD
3rd place: Jai B, NSW
Category 2. Years 2 – 4
1st place: Ghil G, QLD Watch Ghil talk about his win on Channel 9 News (Facebook video).
2nd place: Riley W, NSW
3rd place: Gabby F, NSW
Category 3. Years 5 – 6
1st place: Kane P, NSW
2nd place: Lok Yi L, VIC
3rd place: Amelia G, VIC
ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function
770 Blackburn Rd, Clayton
Victoria, 3800, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9905 0100
Subscribe to our newsletter
We help introduce secondary students to brain research, with the aim of sparking their interest and encouraging them to pursue a career in neuroscience.
We support the annual Australian Brain Bee Challenge and facilitate work experience for secondary students with our collaborating organisations. We are also working with teachers to develop ways to increase brain research in the syllabus.
Secondary school teachers interested in providing opportunities for their students to learn more about the brain are encouraged to contact us.
As part of Brain Awareness Week 2016, we held a brain drawing competition for primary school students around Australia. The program was designed to encourage parents and teachers around Australia to talk to primary school aged children about the brain.
2016’s challenge was to create a drawing with the theme: “I use my brain to…”
Over 470 entries were received and 19 entries were shortlisted. The winning entry for each category is shown below.
Winners received a pack of brain related items and the school of the winning entry received a brain pack and $1,000 towards teaching resources. Each winning school was visited by one of our brain researchers who presented the prizes to the student and school.
Supporting our next generation of brain researchers and sparking their desire to discover how the brain functions is at the heart of our Education Program.
We bring together neuroscientists and students, engaging them in active learning and providing resources with the latest information on how the brain functions.
We encourage primary school students to explore the brain through art, interactive brain-related activities and age-appropriate educational resources.
Secondary students are introduced to brain research, with the aim of sparking their interest and encouraging them to pursue a career in neuroscience.
For Early Career Researchers (ECRs), including PhD students, we offer professional support, development and mentoring. Supporting new brain researchers is critical for retaining their scientific talents and ensuring future excellence in Australian brain research.
Every day we make decisions based on information captured by multiple senses, and on our internal goals. For example, when crossing the road we need to decide how to coordinate our movements to reach the destination safely and at the right time. To achieve this goal we make a guess about where the car is likely to be while we cross the road, given what we see of its trajectory and the sound it produces. Our estimate of the car’s future location is inevitably imperfect, and is combined with our experience of how fast cars encountered in the past have been travelling. For example, we may know that the car is likely to slow down if we are at a pedestrian crossing. This uncertainty places the problem of estimating the future position of the car and how and when we should move to cross the road in a statistical setting. A practical way to conceive of the problem is that the brain uses “rules of thumb” that approximate statistical methods of incorporating prior knowledge and uncertainty (Bayesian theory). The aim of Centre research is to determine these rules of thumb and how they can be implemented in neural circuitry.
Our Centre research program on Prediction is based on recent demonstrations that the brain does not simply respond to external events, but rather compares sensory information against predictions based on internal representations (memories). The difference between predictions and external inputs (“prediction errors”) are used to initiate adaptive behaviours. For example, when you are crossing the street, the observed trajectory of an oncoming car (sensory input) allows your brain to predict your movement relative to that of the car, based on past experience (memory) of trajectories of moving vehicles. Appropriate movements are then initiated to avoid collision. The computational load on the brain is thus reduced, from all-encompassing sensory perception to the more tractable problem of comparing sensory inputs to internally stored predictions. This “predictive error” framework can be used to unify apparently diverse behavioural data, from low-level functions such as control of eye movements, through to attention and high- level functions such as decision.
Most of our physiologically based studies of Prediction employ the well-established fear conditioning paradigm in rodents. This paradigm will be adapted to test predictive coding models by manipulating statistical regularities in the properties or timing of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. For example, the probabilities will be changed so that only 50% of the tones (conditioned stimuli) are paired with the shocks (unconditioned stimuli). Thus animals can modify their expectation of a shock and respond adaptively. In other studies, we will use eye movement-based prediction tasks in non-human primates trained to “intercept” visual targets based on their prior history of movement, with or without concurrent multisensory cues (e.g. an auditory stimulus that predicts stimulus acceleration or deceleration with different probabilities). This same paradigm can be adapted to human studies once we have learned more about the physiological signatures of prediction errors. The new approach that the Centre research brings is to undertake multiscale experiments based on these paradigms, and analyse and interpret the data acquired from the scale of the single neuron, through neural circuits, up to the whole brain.
The Centre research program addressing Attention comprises multiple projects, each crossing more than one research theme.
In a complex environment, we prioritise certain objects and actions at the expense of others. Likewise, sudden or unexpected stimuli (e.g., an approaching car) can capture attention during an ongoing task (crossing the street). Attention therefore has two main aspects: an experience and state dependent (“top-down”) component for filtering complex information, and a stimulus driven (“bottom-up”) component that captures attention when there is an unexpected or salient change in the environment. Understanding the brain mechanisms underlying attention is of obvious importance, with implications for many areas including education, driving, surveillance, and workplace safety. We know that when attention is focused on part of the visual world (e.g., when reading this text) there is increased activity in visual centres, where cells show enhanced electrical and biochemical activity, and responses synchronize. We also know that these changes depend on neural commands interchanged between brain areas with “executive” functions (in the parietal and frontal lobes), and those involved in sensory processing and motor control.