Dr Brett Cochrane

Dr Brett Cochrane

Potential PhD Projects

My research program explores how humans extract information from the environment to learn to effectively interact within it. As you might expect, the system that allows us to do so depends on a complex relationship that spans attention, memory, and cognition. To investigate these issues, we use eye-tracking, electroencephalography (EEG/ERP), and behavioural methods. Below you will find some of my specific interests:

Attentional Control

When searching the visual environment, bottom-up (e.g., physically salient), top-down (e.g., the goals of the observer), and history-driven (e.g., prior experience) systems compete to drive attention to different regions in visual space. The basis of this research program is to best understand how these systems interact with the ultimate goal of developing an interface that optimizes visual search.

Memory Encoding and Conflict

When an action is made in response to a stimulus, the stimulus and response infrmation are bound together due to neural synchrony in their respective brain regions, which is foundational to the formation of an episodic memory. We hypothesize that, much in the same way that some of your worst memories are the most memorable, that conflict plays an important role in producing these encoding episodes. The basis of this research program is to understand the role of conflict in memory encoding so we can learn to be better learners.

Associative Learning

Without even realising it, you are picking-up on the statistical regularities in your environment to prepare for your future interactions within it. The question is: what exactly is your brain capable of when it comes to subconsciously aiding behaviour? Could it be improving the efficiency of attentional allocation or reducing processing demands on decision-making and response? The goal of this research program is to reveal the different systems underlying associative learning so we can create targeted learning protocols.

Context Learning

Sometimes context information is helpful as it could indicate how you should act, other times it needs to be disregarded so skills can generalize to new environments. It is not presently clear when and when not context information is incorporated into the learning episode. Accordingly, the goal f this research program is to reveal how context relevance is signaled to the observer so we can exert control over it.