Young Investigator 2017 award winner, Dr Nigel Rogasch

Learning how to say no

Meet Dr Nigel Rogasch, winner of the 2017 BrainBox Initiative Young Investigator Award. Nigel completed his PhD at Monasch University, Melbourne where he now works as a research fellow researching combined brain stimulation and neuroimaging in the field of memory, schizophrenia and aging.

Tell us about your competition winning research and why you chose this particular area:
My research involves combining non-invasive brain stimulation methods, particularly transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), with neuroimaging methods such as electroencephalography. Combining these methods is extremely challenging from a technical perspective and can result in a large number of artifacts which obscure the brain signal of interest (e.g. the brain signal resulting from the stimulation). I have investigated methods for identifying and removing artifacts from TMS-EEG recordings, and written an open source toolbox called TESA which makes these and other analysis methods freely available to the research community. I’m also interested in what we can learn about the brain from these TMS-evoked EEG potentials and have performed research assessing whether different peaks and troughs in the EEG signal represent cortical mechanisms such as periods of dominant excitation or inhibition. Finally, I’m assessing how we can use TMS-EEG to track changes in cortical properties following plasticity-inducing brain stimulation paradigms, and in different brain disorders such as schizophrenia.

What inspired you to enter the BrainBox Initiative Young Investigator Award?
I saw the conference advertised on twitter and was initially drawn by the great list of speakers including some really talented ECRs (early career researchers) that I know. When I read further and realised that the conference was dedicated to giving ECRs a voice (a topic I am also passionate about) I was really impressed and decided I wanted to attend.

What does it mean to you to win this award?
Winning the award was very exciting and humbling. We all spend a lot of time and energy on our work, while suffering through the rejections and hardships that come with an academic career. This can become quite draining, particularly at early career stages where we are often juggling the transition from being a student to running an independent lab. So it was really great to have a reminder that, even as ECRs, the work we do is important and recognised by the field.

What are some current exciting areas of brain stimulation research?
I’m really excited by some of the recent developments in EEG-triggered TMS (aka closed-loop EEG-TMS). I think this method holds great promise for reducing variability in brain stimulation paradigms by better controlling brain state and will also allow us to address some pretty cool questions around the role of oscillations. There is some really cool work coming out of Finland on multi-coil TMS systems which allow you to control the position of the magnetic field without having to move the coil. This has some really great potential applications for stimulating multiple cortical regions in quick succession. Like everyone, I’m also really excited by developments in transcranial ultrasound stimulation.

Do you have any advice for other early career researchers?
It’s really important to protect time for your own research – this means learning how to say no.
Surround yourself with good people.
Get a good mentor.
Make sure you keep learning.