Brain talent wins Fulbright

Angela Langdon
Friday, 19 March, 2010
Bob Beale

She's a whizz at maths, has Honours degrees in physics and fine arts and is studying for a doctorate in neuroscience: now Angela Langdon has won a prestigious scholarship to help her develop a mathematical model of the brain.

The talented UNSW student has been awarded a 2010 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship that will allow her to spend a year at the Centre for Neural Science, New York University, to further pursue her research into the functioning of the human brain. She is one of 25 Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2010.

Her successful studies at UNSW also saw her earlier win an Australian Bicentennial Scholarship as well: that scholarship enabled her to travel to Britain and work at the University of Nottingham,  in the School of Mathematical Sciences.

"Despite recent advances in the non-invasive measurement of brain activity in humans, a comprehensive understanding of the biophysical processes that give rise to cognitive functions, such as perception, is still lacking," says Ms Langdon.

"I'll be working with Professor John Rinzel at New York University, to undertake a collaborative project in the field of computational neuroscience. We'll work on developing mathematical models that describe how patterns of brain activity change in response to incoming sensory information and give rise to perception.  Such investigations are at the forefront of interdisciplinary research in neuroscience.

"The project will allow me to apply my knowledge of physics, neuroscience and mathematics in collaboration with a world leader in the field, accessing the greater depth of this field in the US to the benefit of local research efforts."

She says that ultimately this project will contribute to understanding how these biophysical processes enact the computation that underlies all aspects of cognitive function, be it decision making, working memory, perception or executive function.

"Such an understanding in turn has the potential to inform all aspects of neuroscience, including the development of clinical and diagnostic applications, as well as influence a broad range of fields that are inspired by examples of biophysical computation, such as artificial intelligence and robotics."

She will examine the question: how does neuronal activity in the human brain give rise to sensory perception? To this end, she aims to develop mathematical models that predict how networks of neurons react to sensory signals. These models will give insight into the fundamental biophysical processes of brain function.

The Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created in 1946 by US Senator J. William Fulbright and the US Government. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the US and 155 countries.

In Australia, the scholarships are funded by the Australian and US Governments and corporate partners and administered by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission in Canberra.


Media contacts
Bob Beale, UNSW Faculty of Science - 0411 705 435
Rosemary Schmedding, Australian-American Fulbright Commission: 02 6260 4460.