Travel Story: Mitchell Goldsworthy

Dr Mitchell Goldsworthy from the Robinson Research Institute’s NeuroPAD group attended the 1st International Brain Stimulation Conference in Singapore.

Mitchell presented his research on Combined transcranial alternating current stimulation and cTBS: a novel approach for neuroplasticity induction.

This is what Mitchell had to say about his experience:

What was a highlight of the conference?
The conference on a whole was extremely informative, and so there was no one highlight per se. Other than the opportunity to present my findings, it is always highly enjoyable to watch leading experts in the field (effortlessly) present their own research.

Did you visit any labs or research facilities? How was this useful to your work or career development?
In addition to attending and presenting at the 1st International Brain Stimulation Conference, I visited the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory (CNL) at Duke NUS. The CNL group have extensive experience conducting neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessments to examine neural factors associated with cognitive health in ageing populations. These themes are strongly linked to my own research interests, which include using novel neurophysiological techniques to study brain connectivity and neuroplasticity in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

As part of my CNL visit, I was also invited to present a departmental seminar to the Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS. This provided an excellent opportunity to not only communicate my research to others in the field, but also to expand my international profile.

Did you meet any researchers or collaborators of significance?
During my CNL visit I met with Assistant Professor Helen Juan Zhou, a principal investigator within the group whose research employs multimodal MRI and EEG techniques to explore the neural basis of emotional and cognitive impairments in various neuropsychiatric disorders, including dementia. During the conference I was also able to meet with international collaborators Professor Ulf Ziemann (University of Tübingen, Germany) and Professor John Rothwell (University College London, UK) to discuss ongoing projects and NHMRC grant applications.

What was the most exciting thing you learned/experienced at the Conference?
It is always exciting to see how the field is evolving, and because the topics covered in this conference were more focused to my field of research compared to other, more wide-ranging meetings, the way in which the field is progressing was particularly evident. This will be important in informing future projects and funding applications.

What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?
A general and very much unexpected theme of this conference was the critical appraisal given to certain aspects of the field. In particular, over the past couple of decades there has been a steady growth in the number of studies investigating clinical applications of brain stimulation techniques; however, not all are necessarily supported by basic science (this was emphasised in a cogent presentation by Professor Vincent Walsh, a cognitive neuroscientist from UCL and deputy editor of the journal Brain Stimulation). Instead of merely providing a basic review of brain stimulation research, the tone of this conference was very much directed towards re-enforcing evidence-based research and, in the case of Professor Walsh’s presentation, providing a specific framework for progressing the field.

How will the experience support you and your research going forward?
This travel afforded me the unique opportunity to discuss my research and network with experts in both neurocognitive/ageing research (CNL visit) and non-invasive brain stimulation, two fields of research that I intend to combine and develop as a niche area of study for my future career.

Would you recommend this experience to your friends/colleagues and why?
Yes, I would recommend this conference to my colleagues, particularly those interested in pursuing research using non-invasive brain stimulation techniques. As well as providing an unparalleled opportunity to network with leading experts in the field, this conference delivered a comprehensive yet focused critique of the field that will help shape future research.

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