Poster Presentation 2018 Winner, Haya Akkad

Researchers were invited to submit abstracts for inclusion in the Brainbox Initiative Conference poster session, particularly in the area of non-invasive brain imaging and stimulation. All poster submissions were supported by a three-minute presentation to elucidate the findings of their research.

This year’s successful poster presentation winner was Haya Akkad of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oxford, with her research on Improving motor learning via phase-amplitude coupled theta-gamma tACS. Professor of Neurophysiology Walter Paulus, University of Göttingen judged and awarded this year’s prize.

We recently spoke to Haya about her experiences with the BrainBox Initiative.

Thank you for speaking to us, Haya, and well done again on being awarded the Brainbox Initiative Poster Presentation award. To start, would you mind telling us a little more about your award-winning research, and what it was about this particular area of study that you found interesting?
My poster focused on using non-invasive brain stimulation to improve human motor learning. Motor learning is an important mechanism utilized in every day activities such as learning a new sport or playing an instrument, as well as playing a crucial role in recovery after brain injury. There is an interest in modulating the mechanisms underlying motor learning in an effort to augment learning in both patients and healthy individuals. In our research, we were able to substantially enhance motor learning by non-invasively modulating brain oscillations in the theta and gamma frequencies using transcranial alternating current stimulation.

poster presentation

And what drew your interest in presenting your work at the Brainbox Initiative Conference?
I attended the Brainbox Initiative conference last year and was really impressed by other people’s presentations, but I also just really enjoyed the conference. It was nice to have so many brain stimulation researchers in one place, which created a real community of people with mutual interests discussing very important questions in the field. I wanted to submit a poster this year primarily because I knew it would be an enjoyable and hugely beneficial experience – the work I submitted is quite recent and I knew I would greatly benefit from other researchers’ input.

So having presented at the conference, how did it feel summarising your work into a three-minute pitch for our conference attendees?
Summarising my work into a 3-minute pitch was really helpful- it pushes you to think of the main take-away message of the work. When you spend a lot of time on something it’s easy to get bogged down in all the details and lose sight of the bigger picture, so it was a great exercise from that perspective.

And how does it feel to have been chosen as our prize winner as a result of that pitch?
It’s very rewarding. A lot of time and effort went into the work, everyone cares about their research and hopes it can amount to something helpful so it means a great deal to know it’s had some sort of impact- the prize is a bonus! The workshops organized by Brainbox cover a wide range of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques. I’m interested in multi-modal measures, I don’t have a lot of experience in that area but would really like to think of practical ways to combine non-invasive neuromodulation with electrophysiological and/or imaging modalities, so I’m sure I would benefit greatly from attending the relevant workshop.

Do you have any advice for other early-career researchers who are thinking of submitting a poster for the Brainbox Initiative Conference 2019, or maybe even just tips for promoting research in general?
Do it. It might feel daunting but there really is nothing to lose and a lot to gain. A conference like the Brainbox Initiative Conference in particular gives early-career researchers the platform to gain experience presenting their own work to a very knowledgeable crowd that, if anything, gives you the opportunity to discuss your work and ideas with people you can really benefit from.

And, finally, how do you spend your time when you’re not busy carrying out award-winning research presentations?
I love travelling to new places and meeting new people. I grew up in a multicultural environment and I really appreciate exploring different countries and cultures whenever I get the chance.

You can submit your poster to present at the Brainbox Initiative Conference 2019 here.