I studied at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, obtaining a BA in Behavioural Sciences and a PhD in Neuropsychology (summa cum laude), while completing a European Diploma in Cognitive Brain Sciences (EDCBS). During this period I also received clinical training as a neuropsychologist at Beit Loewenstein, one of the best rehabilitation centres in Israel.
From 2006 to 2009 I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, which was funded by the Yad-Hanadiv/Rothschild Foundation, the International Brain Research Organization, and the European Union (Marie Curie Fellowship).
In 2009, I joined the University of Oxford as a Wellcome Research Career Development Fellow and I set up my lab in the Department of Experimental Psychology where I continue my work on mathematics and the brain, as well as other questions in cognitive neuroscience.
Aside from the honour of joining Jesus College at 2011 as a Junior Research Fellow and as a Hugh Price Fellow in 2014, I received several prestigious prizes in psychology and neuroscience including the Sieratzki-Korczyn Prize for Advances in the Neurosciences (2009), the Career Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience (2010) for my work on the neural basis of numbers in the parietal cortex, the Paul Bertelson Award (2012) from the European Society for Cognitive Psychology for an outstanding contribution to cognitive psychology in Europe, the British Psychological Society's Spearman Medal for outstanding contributions to psychology (2014), the Scholar Award from the James S McDonnell Foundation (2014), and The Early Career Award (2016) from The International Mind, Brain and Education Society.
In 2015 the University of Oxford awarded me the title of Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience.
My main research focuses on the psychological and biological factors that shape learning and cognitive achievements. Understanding and enhancing learning and cognition have significant implications for different fields of research, including psychology, neuroscience, education, and medicine. In addition it also has a translational impact in that it can inform the development of tools for cognitive enhancement in clinical and non-clinical populations. The European Union acknowledges the importance of this line of work and I have been awarded an ERC Starting Grant for €2MM in 2013 to closely examine the cognitive and brain bases for learning and achievement in children and adults.
As a model I use mathematical cognition, one of the most sophisticated human abilities, to investigate skill learning and performance at different levels (e.g. from the symbolic understanding of numbers to complex calculations) in a range of populations (children and adults, participants with developmental dyscalculia, mathematicians and individuals with synaesthesia). I am currently extending my work to other cognitive domains, including problem solving and reasoning, attention, working memory, time perception, and maths anxiety.
Depending on the research question, the techniques I use can vary from cognitive assessment, mental chronometry, and diffusion models to neuroimaging methods that allow me to examine neurochemicals, brain structures and functions (e.g., electroencephalography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, near infrared spectroscopy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation). Importantly, I have been pioneering the use of transcranial electrical stimulation to manipulate neuronal activity and to modulate neuroplasticity during cognitive training to improve learning and mathematical achievement.
Such integrative and multidisciplinary work has a real impact by inspiring new research into developing tools to improve cognition and learning, thus affecting especially the life of many who suffer from developmental or acquired cognitive difficulties. At the same time this kind of work raises new important ethical concerns. Therefore, I am communicating my work to the public and I am collaborating with neuroethicists. I am also advising policy makers in order to encourage a wider dialogue on these issues and to influence current policy making.
Based on the promising results so far, this innovative line of research has the potential to revolutionise the way we learn during the entire life-span.
Long distance running, reading, movies, making my own ice-cream, and riding on a triplet tandem with my kids.
Subject notes for courses taught at Jesus College:
Image: Graham Harrison