Neuroscience, Cognition And Education

Neuroscience, Cognition And Education

Neuroscience encompasses knowledge from health sciences, human sciences and exact sciences ultimately applied to clinical, industrial and educational areas. Learning is influenced by disability, low cognitive stimulation, low socioeconomic level, stress and genetic susceptibility to disorders affecting neuronal development. Considering that Brazil has low performance in the international ranking of education, it is pressing to minimize the impact of factors that harm cognitive development through the integration of knowledge of the neurosciences. We propose approaches backed by scientific evidence together with the best global centers which will allow us: a) to analyze manifestations of cognitive behavioral b) improve the detection factors causing cognitive impairment c) to perform interventions that promote improvement of cognition and education d) to enhance international projection in scientific production. Therefore, translational, behavioral, educational, statistical, epidemiological and neurotechnological techniques will be employed through three axes.

In this setting, the university proposes the establishment of 3 strategies of research for internationalization in the themes:

1-neural plasticity in teaching-learning processes: neuroplasticity implies in evaluating the educational means to develop the learning potential of the individual. Therefore, professionals from different areas will act to develop translational research to enhance educational practices;

2-new paradigms for diagnosis and intervention in neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative disorders: the focus on prevention, diagnosis and intervention in development and neurodegenerative disorders is important for the clinical prognosis and development of health policies. The translational aims to develop and improve innovative techniques for the promotion of positive neuroplasticity. Neural restructuration (recovery of lost neuronal functions or increased efficacy) is crucial for the treatment of these disorders;

3- Technologies for Modulation, Recording and for Neurocognitive Therapies: computer processing applied mathematical procedures capable of simulating physiological processes, developing techniques capable of mimicking cognitive processes and expand functionality. The development of neurotechnologies in our country depends on the interaction between different sectors of basic and applied neuroscience, as well as on the international cooperation with centers of excellence, focusing on scientific and technological “deliverables”.

Research Lines

  • Evaluation of tools for the detection of neurodevelopmental, language and social cognition disorders in children and young people, and investigation of the effectiveness of educational therapeutic interventions.

Genetic susceptibility and exposure to adverse life events during periods of neurodevelopment, such as low cognitive stimulation and chronic stress are risk factors for vulnerable individuals leading to a lifelong impact. We will emphasize developmental disorders, both language and social cognition related. The protocols aim to evaluate the effectiveness of preschool early intervention programs to promote oral and written language skills through Randomized Clinical Trials that will consider adverse socioeconomic conditions associated with inadequate cognitive stimulation and stress. These are multidisciplinary studies that include 1) speech-language assessment of reading disorders obtained by eye tracking and analyzed through artificial neural networks to identify visual patterns of performance that may add to differential diagnosis of dyslexia; and 2) evaluation of the effectiveness of a teacher training program to promote the language development of children at risk for speech and language disorders. Another related study focuses on the translation and adaptation of an assessment tool for communicative competence in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Still in children with ASD we will investigate the mental processes underlying the understanding and response to the intentions, emotions and thoughts of the other person (social cognition). Social cognition skills influence the capacity for socialization and formal learning. We will evaluate tests associated with physiological measures such as skin conductance, pupillometry, and eye-tracking. Finally, the linguistic- gestural description of the productions of children with ASD in interaction will be evaluated, offering intelligibility to the way these interactions take place. Inappropriate responses will be reexamined from a linguistic perspective by offering theoretical and practical support to family members and health professionals who interact with such children. These associated projects involve 7 of the 9 participating PGPs. Complementary clinical trials will evaluate the effects of executive function training and language skills on school readiness in preschool children, with the aim of adapting and comparing intervention programs. In addition, we will investigate the efficacy of combined transcranial stimulation combined with integrative therapy on cognition in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ASD, Dyslexia and others. In the basic research, we emphasize studies based on the neonatal stress paradigm. Perinatal stress can result in inadequate hormonal responses to stress and depression. Our studies aim to investigate the neurobiology underlying the behavioral changes induced by neurochemical, pharmacological and molecular approaches. The results may support therapeutic approaches for affective disorders mainly in the youth population.

  • Well-being, Cognition and health status assessment in college students and general population of Sao Paulo, according to chronotype and presence of sleep disorders.

Wake / Sleep Cycle and Sleep Disorders are common among young people and can greatly affect overall performance. Sleep and wakefulness play an important role in students’ performance. The maintenance of the biological rhythmicity is preponderant for the proper functioning of the organism, and changes in its synchronization and / or timing have been related to the development of metabolic disorders, mood disorders, increase in the incidence of tumors, among other changes in the physiology of the human organism. Respect for individual biological rhythmicity (expressed by chronotype) has also proved important for more effective initiatives in the field of education and cognition, such as changes in the school period showing that the later onset in the morning has is a more adequate alternative for adolescents, in particular (with potential to be applied for all age groups), with a significant improvement in learning scores and school social interaction. In this sense, the evaluation and implementation of strategies that propose better adaptation of students according to their chronotype are welcome in the current context. The recent Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2017 was awarded to scientists who revealed the molecular mechanisms controlling biological rhythmicity, recognizing the importance that the preservation of rhythms and their synchronization to the environment plays a critical role in the overall functioning and performance of the organism. Given that our University has professors and researchers with experience in this area of knowledge, and that the applicability of discoveries and studies of circadian rhythms have important implications on health, well-being, cognition and learning, we also propose to evaluate the patterns of wakefulness and sleep disturbances in students and in the general population of São Paulo. However, other sleep disorders unrelated to the wake / sleep rhythm are prevalent and significantly affect the acquisition and learning process in a complex way. Several studies are proposed and others are already being carried out aiming to evaluate physiological, diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of sleep and its disorders in special populations and in the general population. These protocols will be conducted jointly by 3 of the participating PGPs.


  • Application and Development of Neurotechnologies in the diagnostic and therapeutic management of neurological disorders

In general, we will cover the applicability, development and improvement of techniques in neurological disorders including multimodal techniques, ”data mining”; ”machine learning” and neuromodulation. Environmental stimuli induce a dynamic neuronal arrangement and also a cognitive representation generating a sense of unity, also known as a body schema. Understanding how the perception of limbs is arranged in the central and peripheral nervous systems is fundamental, since the lower limbs are the main effectors of spatial displacement of the individual, requiring a recruitment of neural pathways of planning and decision making for long distances. An Integrated Biofeedback System will improve therapeutic strategies and efficiency of rehabilitation processes. The objectives of this project are: to develop new platforms of assistive, integrated and interactive technologies for the rehabilitation of people with dysfunctions; Implementation of clinical rehabilitation procedures for people with neurocognitive or sensory-motor dysfunction; develop an experimental, real-time and interactive protocol that allows the investigation of neurocognitive and behavioral aspects involved in the learning process and body representation. This project will include international partnership. Regarding the improved efficacy of indications for invasive procedures, our project draws attention to epilepsy, which affects around 70 million people worldwide. Mesial temporal lobe epilepsy and hippocampal sclerosis are frequent and sometimes progressive, with worsening of cognitive function and psychiatric disorders and even death. In this scenario, resective surgery has been recognized as an effective treatment in drug-resistant epilepsy. However, highly reliable criteria for a robust prediction of postoperative outcomes are still, to date, non-existent. Our proposal has the potential to enable health systems to use a large amount of information about their patients and, based on systematic analysis, be able to identify problems, improve treatments and diagnoses, reduce treatment inefficiencies, modify informational exams and improve practices in patient care the methods used in “Data Mining” and ”Machine Learning”. Evidence-based clinical practices have great repercussions in the adoption of public policies in several countries. Finally, the use of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with integrative speech therapy in a blind and randomized study will evaluate the effects of stimulation on cognition, executive functions, communication and language in patients with Attention disorder, Dyslexia and other developmental disorders. This trial will be carried out in conjunction with international centers.

Partner countries: Ireland; Switzerland; Canada; United States of America; United Kingdom; Netherlands; France; Italy.

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Dalva Poyares