Department of Psychology hosted Dr Azlina Amir Kassim from Bangor University, UK for a talk on “Neuropsychology of the Mind

She presented a talk hosted by the Department of Psychology at School of Science and Technology, Sunway University on ‘Neuropsychology of the Mind’ on 14 January 2020.

Dr Azlina giving the introduction of her talk
Dr Azlina giving the introduction of her talk

The talk was coordinated by Ms Kimberly Liew, Business Development Executive from United Kingdom Education Centre (UKEC), who opened the session. Dr Wo Su Woan of the Department Department of Psychology then introduced Dr Azlina, to the audience comprised of academic staff and psychology students.

During her insightful talk, Dr Azlina expounded on the wonders of the human brain and exposed students to state-of-the-art equipment available at Bangor University that are used to study the brain. These equipment included the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (EEG) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Dr Azlina also shared neuropsychology research using these experimental techniques and their clinical implications.

Dr Azlina describing the human brain
Dr Azlina describing the human brain

TMS is a non-invasive and painless method that has potential to treat depression. By ‘zapping’ a part of the brain with a weak electric pulse, the stimulation may activate parts of the brain that have decreased activity during depression. TMS was also used to investigate factors leading to indecisiveness, e.g. thinking what to eat for lunch. Dr Azlina explained that research participants were asked to make choices based on what they prefer, or based on their sensory need, while researchers intensified or reduced the information flow between the prefrontal cortex located and the parietal cortex using TMS. When information flow between the two brain regions was disrupted, participants became more indecisive on preference-based decisions. There was, however no effect on sensory decisions. This finding has clinical implications – TMS method can help patients who suffer from a high degree of impulsiveness and indecisiveness that can be due to brain disorders.

Dr Azlina also shared a research finding on late night snacking using fMRI. Researched used MRI to measure how people's brains respond to high- and low-calorie food images at day and evening times. The results showed that high-calorie food images can generate spikes in brain activity, however these brain responses are lower in at night. As such, people tend to overeat at night because getting satisfaction from food is more difficult during night time, and therefore people tend to eat more at supper to experience satisfaction that they usual feel earlier in the day.

Dr Azlina describing about how brain function explains why people tend to eat more at night
Dr Azlina describing about how brain function explains why people tend to eat more at night

When a student asked if TMS can be made more cost effective for therapy and research, Dr Azlina answered that it is possible when more research is conducted to prove its usefulness and when there are more TMS users (e.g. neuropsychologist). She hopes that more psychology graduates would pursue areas in neuropsychology for their postgraduate degrees.

Lecturers from the Department of Psychology pose with Dr Azlina and Ms Liew. From left: Dr Lee Ai-Suan, Dr Wu Shin Ling, Dr Azlina, Dr Wo Su Woan, Dr Elizaveta Berezina and Ms Liew.
Lecturers from the Department of Psychology pose with Dr Azlina and Ms Liew.
From left: Dr Lee Ai-Suan, Dr Wu Shin Ling, Dr Azlina, Dr Wo Su Woan, Dr Elizaveta Berezina and Ms Liew.

Psychology lecturer, Dr. Lee Ai-Suan, was coincidentally PhD coursemates with Dr Azlina at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, remarked that “it was great to catch up and reflect on our PhD journeys, and see how we have grown as academics since graduating”. Dr Wu Shin Ling was impressed with the equipment in the Psychology laboratory in University Bangor. Dr Elizaveta Berezina mentioned that "Dr Azlina has presented recent research in neuroscience that

demonstrated the complexity of processes in brain circuits that explain our executive cognitive functioning. Her talk was inspiring for students who aim to pursue a career in clinical or neuropsychology and provided some guidance on academic pathways to achieve their goals".

Dr Wo with Dr Azlina
Dr Wo with Dr Azlina

Some of the Year 1 Psychology students who were there, commented that they had not thought about how knowledge in neuropsychology can be so practical and relevant to their daily activities. They added that they now look forward even more to their second and third year where they will be learning more about how psychology is applied. Postgraduate psychology student, Brenda Sim summarized “Through this talk we are able to unfold and gain knowledge on the alternative medical equipment that exist but were less known by many, and it would be great that years down the road it will be something that is accessible for the members of the public, which in a way making mental health equally important as physical health.”

Dr Azlina and the audience after her very insightful talk
Dr Azlina and the audience after her very insightful talk

The talk ended with a photo session with audience, and Dr Wo Su Woan thanking Dr Azlina with a token of appreciation. It was truly an informative session and the Department of Psychology would like to thank UKEC for helping to coordinate this talk that gave us the opportunity to host Dr Azlina.