Han Ke: My Research Visit to the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Brain Sciences in Leipzig

I have recently spent 4 weeks in the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Brain Sciences in Leipzig, working alongside the research team of Prof Stefanie Hoehl‘s Early Social Cognition Lab (ESCo), learning about the most exciting and up-to-date brain-to-brain coupling research in infants. And it was all thanks to the LuCiD Travel Award.

Brain-to-brain synchrony is a new research pathway in developmental neuroscience. Studies have recently shown that various mother-infant synchrony behaviours, such as mutuality, reciprocity, rhythmicity, harmonious interaction, turn-taking and shared affect, are beneficial to infants’ social and cognitive development. In Prof Hoehl’s lab, the hyper-scanning research team investigates how synchronization between the infant and the caregiver influences their social/communicative interactions, by examining the brain-synchrony between infants and adults. Various behavioural and neurophysiological methodologies are applied in the investigations, such as heart rate measurements, dual-EEG recording and EEG phase-locking value analysis (a statistic that can be used to investigate task-induced changes in long range synchronization of neural activity).

During my visit, I contributed to all 3 on-going research projects conducted by the research team, which was a very valuable experience. I was also involved with the development of a new and novel coding methodology that was applied to video recordings of experiments. Thus, by being a part of the development of this cutting-edge method, as well as learning about various other experimental paradigms, I developed deep understanding of both the use of the new research method and the potential of this rapidly developing field. Furthermore, discussing with the researchers in the institute about their research greatly widened my own research perspectives. I was also invited to give a talk of my own research projects related to children’s curiosity-based learning in ESCo lab’s weekly meeting. Following this, I received helpful feedback and warm encouragement from internationally recognised scientists.  Nevertheless, the exchanging of research information also brought a lot of research inspiration.  The outcomes of which are one study collaboration with Dr. Chrsitine Michel on the role of infant-mother joint-attention in category learning, as well as potential project collaborations with Prof. Hoehl and Dr. Ezgi Kayhan.

I also benefited from the well-organized research environment and resources in the MPI. During my stay, I attended several talks and guest lectures, learning a lot about current developments related to neuroscience and developmental psychology research more broadly. For example, I attended a guest lecture on phase-locking analysis, it provided me with a fundamental understanding of the principle of EEG phase-locking amplitude analysis. I also developed links with the Otto Hahn Neural Bases of Intonation in Speech and Music research group, comprising of scientists interested in musicology, further extending my research network.

Finally, working as a visiting postdoc researcher in a different research group, has provided me with a great chance to experience being confident and open in a new environment. It brought a brand-new perspective of myself as a researcher, my view of research as a career and the wider research community. I’m very grateful to LuCiD for this travel award and for making all these experiences possible. I would highly recommend this great opportunity for future applicants.


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