Research Challenge Winner 2020: Kendra Kandana Arachchige

We are delighted to announce that Kendra Kandana Arachchige of the University of Mons has been chosen as one of the Brainbox Initiative's Research Challenge winners for 2020. Kendra is currently in the final stages of her PhD, 'Cognitive mechanisms involved in gesture/speech integration: the role of verbal working memory and visual attention', and hopes to begin work on her winning Research Challenge submission in mid-2021.

Established in 2016, the Brainbox Initiative Research Challenge aims to help early-career neuroscientists with the most ambitious research proposals gain crucial access to the non-invasive brain stimulation and imaging equipment and training that they need to make their plans a reality. The Research Challenge award provides our winners with a three-month loan of specialist neuroscience equipment to complete their study; ongoing technical support and guidance throughout this period; and additional financial support to help make the study possible.

For 2020, we are thrilled to be working alongside Kendra to support her exciting project exploring gesture/speech integration, investigating the implication of verbal working memory and attentional processes in the understanding of iconic gesture/speech integration.

The study will be carried out at the department of Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology at the University of Mons, and will employ transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques (for the first ever time at the university) in order to help investigate the timing of neural processes involved in gesture/speech integration.

"We already know," Kendra tells us, "that in order for information to be understood by a listener, the gesture needs to be temporally aligned to speech. What we have yet to figure out is how and when this integration takes place in the brain, and whether the timing will differ depending on the brain region implicated."

Kendra is now focusing her efforts on further developing the research proposal before seeking ethics approval for the study. The study itself will be run as an on-line TMS experiment with participants undergoing stimulation as they perform a task, and so Kendra is already hard at work with the behind-the-scenes coding and programming required to make sure that everything runs smoothly throughout the project.

The findings of Kendra's research, she hopes, will be presented at the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) meeting scheduled to take place in July 2022, and, of course, at the Brainbox Initiative Conference.

We would like to extend our congratulations to Kendra, and we are very much looking forward to working with her to make this planned research a reality throughout the coming months.


This year, we are delighted to sponsor two fantastic research proposals from early-career researchers as, alongside Kendra's work, we will also be providing support to Roisin McMackin of Trinity College Dublin.