Diversity in Neuroscience Summer Interns

The Diversity in Neuroscience Summer Internship provides Western undergraduate students interested in cognitive neuroscience, who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, people with a disability, and women, an opportunity to have an immersive experience in a research environment, along with gaining valuable skills needed to excel in academia and beyond.

In summer 2021, the first set of interns joined the program. Learn about the summer interns and their research.


Current BrainsCAN Scholars:
Ashley Li, Ashini Peiris, Yoshan Sasiharan, Sophie Henke TarnowSabrina Yang, Mohamed Yousif, Ocarina Zheng

Ashley Li
Ashley Li
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Dr. Derek Mitchell

Research Information:
Ashley is working on a project designed initially for remote testing (ethics application already under review) examining the impact of medical masks on emotion recognition as a function of perceived race of the individual wearing the mask (and psychometrically assessed ethnic identity of the observer). Prior work has indicated that emotion recognition is less accurate for emotions expressed by individuals who are perceived as being from a different cultural group than one's own (e.g., outgroups are perceived as more angry than in-group members). The group will explore whether this effect is exacerbated in situations where fewer facial cues are available (i.e., when wearing a medical mask) using a remote testing protocol that is set-up and approved by TRAC.

Ashini Peiris
Ashini Peiris
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Dr. Daniel Ansari

Research Information:
Ashini will work on existing neuroimaging data from children with and without specific math learning difficulties. Ashini will use univariate and multi-variate analyses tools to investigate differences and similarities in the brain activity between children with and without mathematical learning difficulties. Very little is known about the neural mechanisms underpinning math learning difficulties.

Yoshan Sasiharan
Yoshan Sasiharan
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Dr. Natasha Mhatre

Research Information:
Jumping spiders within the genus Habronattus perform courtship displays that are long and complex. Male displays are multimodal, incorporating intricate combinations of visual and vibratory motifs that can be rearranged in different ways. Dr. Mhatre’s lab plans to develop Habronattus as a model to ask questions about the control of complex movement with small brains. They will precisely characterize their movements where Yoshan will use machine learning to automatically track movements and perform 3D kinematic analysis. This will allow them to describe the specific positions and motion of these spiders, rather than subjectively classifying broad categories of behaviour or movement. 

Sophie Tarnow
Sophie Henke Tarnow
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Oren Princz Lebel

Research Information:
Sophie will help analyze recordings of the neuromodulator dopamine in an area of the brain called the Striatum. The technique used is called 'fibre photometry'; this allows us to record neural signals in rodents with unprecedented accuracy and precision. Sophie will also be involved in uploading existing experimental data to Mousebytes, an open-access database created by researchers at Western University that allows scientists to share data and knowledge related to rodent touchscreen-based cognitive testing.

Sabrina Yang
Sabrina Yang
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Dr. Julie Dumont

Research Information:
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is characterized by the deposition of plaques throughout the brain and is correlated with neuronal loss and cognitive decline. The relationship between these plaques and working memory (WM), however, remains relatively obscure. Using a novel amyloid precursor protein knock-in (APP-KI) mouse model of AD, the group's research will investigate the role of β-amyloid plaques on WM. WM performance will be assessed with touchscreen technology using the Trial Unique Non-Matching-to-Location (TUNL) task. By elucidating the relationship between WM and APP plaques, the research may open new avenues in investigating other facets of AD pathology and have downstream applications for therapeutic development.

Mohamed Yousif
Mohamed Yousif
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Dr. Ali Khan

Research Information:
Mohamed will help analyze a multimodal 7-Tesla MRI dataset with diabetes and metabolic syndrome patients with adjacent clinical and cognitive testing data. More specifically, the group will look at the hippocampal formation using an in-house developed coordinate system to map morphological (e.g. cortical thickness) and functional properties (e.g functional connectivity) to a two-dimensional unfolded space for further statistical analysis.

Ocarina Zheng
Ocarina Zheng
BrainsCAN Summer Intern
Supervisor(s): Dr. Jessica Grahn

Research Information:
Groove is both a musical feature that elicits an urge to move with rhythmic patterns and an integral component of music in therapy to cue for synchronized movement to auditory stimuli in Parkinson’s patients with walking impairments. Despite its importance, factors that influence it remain unclear. In Ocarina's internship, they will explore the effect of nostalgia on the perception of groove in healthy adults through behavioural studies. Ocarina will also help investigate the effect of syncopation on groove perception in Parkinson’s disease patients. These findings will provide a foundation for future gait studies and inform stimulus selection for clinical applications.