Dr Patrick Cooper

Dr Patrick Cooper

Post Doctoral Research Fellow

School of Psychology

Why the mind matters

Dr Patrick Cooper is fascinated by the brain: how it works and how it makes us function and is probing its matter in a range of diverse projects.

Patrick came to university with the aim of being a child psychologist. However, a second year study of the biology of the brain saw Patrick’s interest fire up – and a new passion was born. He wasn’t a natural at the subject though, “At first, I was really bad at it,” Patrick laughs. “But that motivated me to just keep studying until I became good at it.”

After this course, Patrick’s direction totally changed. Although he’d never had any desire to do a PhD, or to follow a career in research, this one subject turned his life around. “I just wanted to understand how this blob of jelly could make everything in our lives happen.”

Patrick’s honours work researched people who’d experienced transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs or mini-strokes). “We had a small group of patients and a control group and we measured their EEGs and found some differences in their brain functioning,” Patrick explains. “We were looking at whether the white matter pathways to the brain were damaged, and if so, did this produce changes in the rhythms of the brain?”

The honours work raised more questions that led to Patrick’s PhD work; understanding what the rhythms of the brain look like – and what they actually do. “All cognitive process have a goal, and you have to engage a range of mental processes to achieve the goal. The goal might be something as trivial as making sure you remember to turn left at an upcoming intersection, or it might be more complex such as identifying the word “RED” when it’s written in the colour “GREEN”,” Patrick says.

“There’s a theory that each of these goals rely on different parts of the brain talking to one another, and they do this through slow brain rhythms known as theta oscillations.” These oscillations can be measured while people are performing simple laboratory tasks to see if different tasks use different rhythms.

“It turns out that theta may be a general mechanism that the brain uses to communicate with itself. My work was amongst the first to identify how theta oscillations can facilitate the achievement of many distinct types of goals over many different timescales” Patrick says.

“The brain doesn’t just sit there in static isolation waiting for events to generate electrical activity – it has a range of ongoing processes with distinct oscillations,” Patrick adds. “Some of these brainwaves can be really quick: up to 500 times a second, while others are really slow and can take almost 20 seconds for the wave to move through the brain. The brain somehow uses all these different rhythms to communicate and achieve what is needed to be done.”

Patrick is working to link particular rhythms to specific behaviours and to identify not only the rhythms, but to pinpoint whether they actually produce behaviour. “Conversely, I’m also interested in finding out what happens when these rhythms go wrong? Perhaps they don’t exist in a person, or they move too quickly, or too slowly. Maybe they connect parts of the brain that shouldn’t be connected,” Patrick says.

Potentially this could be an issue in people living with a mental illness. “It could be that one of the reasons why so many mental disorders, which have distinct sets of symptoms, often have common cognitive impairments. These cognitive changes may be related to changes to these rhythms,” Patrick says. “There are cognitive abilities that we can use to assess mental functioning: for example how well you can set a goal, or remember things. But what we often measure is the end product of brain network processing. If we examined the underlying oscillations these networks used, we could gain new insights into why these cognitive changes occur. What if one type of rhythm is damaged or knocked out? Can it replaced by others?” It’s an area Patrick’s keen to continue to explore.

Sci-comms and computer games

Patrick is very interested in putting complex scientific ideas into the public. His passion for Sci-Comms was sparked when he entered the Three Minute Thesis in 2015 and had to explain his thesis topic in a mere three minutes. “Science is not this elitist practise,” Patrick explains. “It benefits everyone. But it can be very hard to describe complex scientific theories to those outside specialised fields, so we need to think of alternate ways to get the message across to people.”

This is how the Mind Over Mario project originated. Working with Dr Aaron Wong the pair used the project to demonstrate that people can generate and regulate their own brain rhythms to actually control a video game. “What’s really interesting is that playing a video game can normally be intense, but we turn this experience around and ask people to relax,” Patrick says.

“Once people relax their slow rhythms change, and we use this to make Mario move forward through the level. Then, when they blink, it makes him jump. How people choose to relax is entirely up to them, so this could potentially open up a whole new range of ways to help people with mindfulness and learning to relax,” Patrick adds.

Cardiovascular fitness and brain fitness

The link between brain and body is something that Patrick recently explored as part of Associate Professor Frini Karayanadis’s Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory. Published in the international neuroscience journal Human Brain Mapping the team discovered that cardiovascular fitness has an impact on cognitive function in older adults.



“Our research has shown that here’s a strong link between cardiovascular systems and brain health,” Patrick says. “Our work has focused on white matter – which makes up around 50 per cent of the brain. If you have poor cardiovascular health it impacts and influences the white matter health of the brain. This means that the connections between the parts of the brain that communicate with each other just aren’t working as quickly anymore.”

Patrick sees this research as being an ideal public health communication opportunity.  “It’s a really strong message – if you exercise, have a good diet and good cardiovascular health then you could also have better mental health functioning. If there’s a way to offset these cognitive declines then we should do it.”

Patrick Cooper

Why the mind matters

Dr Patrick Cooper is fascinated by the brain: how it works and how it makes us function and is probing its matter in a range of diverse projects.

Read more

Career Summary

Biography

There’s a rhythm to your thoughts and my research aims to uncover it. Just like a heart’s beat, your brain has a fundamental set of rhythms. These rhythms are consequences of the way clusters of neurons interact. Some groups of neurons fire very slowly, at less than one time per second, whereas others fire incredibly quickly – well over 100 times per second! We can detect these interactions as neural oscillations using neuroimaging techniques sensitive to electrical activity (like EEG).

My research is focused on understanding how distinct neural oscillations lead to cognitive capabilities. In particular, I have explored how slow oscillations play a critical role in focusing thoughts and behaviours along motivationally relevant goals.

I am also interested in the consequences of rhythms going wrong. My current research projects explore how changes to the brain as a consequence of disease or injury alter oscillations and ultimately impact cognitive abilities.

Patrick Cooper is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Psychology. He completed his PhD (Psychology) in 2017 and received his Bachelor of Psychology with First Class Honours in 2011 from the University of Newcastle. Patrick’s research explores the role of neural rhythms in facilitating complex cognition in both healthy populations and disease/injury.

In 2016, Patrick was a visiting scientist at the University of the Balearic Islands (Spain) and the Medical Research Council – Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge (UK). Here, Patrick developed novel EEG assessment for patients with frontal lesions to better understand the functional consequences of brain injury.

Patrick regularly collaborates with national and international researchers, including Dr. Matthew Hughes (Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia), A/Prof. Birte Forstmann (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands), Prof. Francisco Barceló (University of the Balearic Islands, Spain), A/Prof. James Cavanagh (University of New Mexico, US) and Prof. John Duncan (CBU, Cambridge, UK).

Patrick is currently working within the Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury. In 2015, he represented the University of Newcastle at the 3 Minute Thesis finals (see below for his presentation).


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Psychology (Honours), University of Newcastle

Keywords

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Science
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Executive Control Processes
  • Psychology

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
170101 Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology) 25
170102 Developmental Psychology and Ageing 25
170205 Neurocognitive Patterns and Neural Networks 50

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Post Doctoral Research Fellow University of Newcastle
School of Psychology
Australia
Casual Academic University of Newcastle
School of Psychology
Australia

Awards

Award

Year Award
2015 Student Travel Award ACNS 2015
Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference 2015
2015 Faculty Award for Outstanding Postgraduate (Research) Student Achievement for 2015
Faculty of Science and Information Technology, University of Newcastle
2012 Australian Postgraduate Award
Australian Postgraduate Award
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Highlighted Publications

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Cooper PS, Wong ASW, Fulham WR, Thienel R, Mansfield E, Michie PT, Karayanidis F, 'Theta frontoparietal connectivity associated with proactive and reactive cognitive control processes', NeuroImage, 108 354-363 (2015) [C1]

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Cognitive control involves both proactive and reactive processes. Paradigms that rely on reactive control have shown that frontoparietal oscillatory synchron... [more]

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Cognitive control involves both proactive and reactive processes. Paradigms that rely on reactive control have shown that frontoparietal oscillatory synchronization in the theta frequency band is associated with interference control. This study examines whether proactive control is also associated with connectivity in the same frontoparietal theta network or involves a distinct neural signature. A task-switching paradigm was used to differentiate between proactive and reactive control processes, involved in preparing to switch or repeat a task and resolving post-target interference, respectively. We confirm that reactive control is associated with frontoparietal theta connectivity. Importantly, we show that proactive control is also associated with theta band oscillatory synchronization but in a different frontoparietal network. These findings support the existence of distinct proactive and reactive cognitive control processes that activate different theta frontoparietal oscillatory networks.

DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.12.028
Citations Scopus - 11Web of Science - 11
Co-authors Frini Karayanidis, Renate Thienel, Pat Michie, Elise Mansfield, Aaron Wong
2016 Cooper PS, Darriba Á, Karayanidis F, Barceló F, 'Contextually sensitive power changes across multiple frequency bands underpin cognitive control', NeuroImage, 132 499-511 (2016) [C1]

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. Flexible control of cognition bestows a remarkable adaptability to a broad range of contexts. While cognitive control is known to rely on frontoparietal neur... [more]

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. Flexible control of cognition bestows a remarkable adaptability to a broad range of contexts. While cognitive control is known to rely on frontoparietal neural architecture to achieve this flexibility, the neural mechanisms that allow such adaptability to context are poorly understood. In the current study, we quantified contextual demands on the cognitive control system via a priori estimation of information across three tasks varying in difficulty (oddball, go/nogo, and switch tasks) and compared neural responses across these different contexts. We report evidence of the involvement of multiple frequency bands during preparation and implementation of cognitive control. Specifically, a common frontoparietal delta and a central alpha process corresponded to rule implementation and motor response respectively. Interestingly, we found evidence of a frontal theta signature that was sensitive to increasing amounts of information and a posterior parietal alpha process only seen during anticipatory rule updating. Importantly, these neural signatures of context processing match proposed frontal hierarchies of control and together provide novel evidence of a complex interplay of multiple frequency bands underpinning flexible, contextually sensitive cognition.

DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.010
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 4
Co-authors Frini Karayanidis
2017 Barceló F, Cooper PS, 'An information theory account of late frontoparietal ERP positivities in cognitive control.', Psychophysiology, (2017)
DOI 10.1111/psyp.12814

Journal article (9 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Cooper PS, Hughes ME, 'Impaired theta and alpha oscillations underlying stopsignal response inhibition deficits in schizophrenia', Schizophrenia Research, (2017)
DOI 10.1016/j.schres.2017.08.002
2017 Cooper PS, Wong ASW, McKewen M, Michie PT, Karayanidis F, 'Frontoparietal theta oscillations during proactive control are associated with goal-updating and reduced behavioral variability.', Biol Psychol, 129 253-264 (2017)
DOI 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.09.008
Co-authors Aaron Wong, Frini Karayanidis, Pat Michie
2017 Barceló F, Cooper PS, 'An information theory account of late frontoparietal ERP positivities in cognitive control.', Psychophysiology, (2017)
DOI 10.1111/psyp.12814
2017 Jolly TAD, Cooper PS, Rennie JL, Levi CR, Lenroot R, Parsons MW, et al., 'Age-related decline in task switching is linked to both global and tract-specific changes in white matter microstructure', Human Brain Mapping, 38 1588-1603 (2017) [C1]

© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Task-switching performance relies on a broadly distributed frontoparietal network and declines in older adults. In this study, they investigated wh... [more]

© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Task-switching performance relies on a broadly distributed frontoparietal network and declines in older adults. In this study, they investigated whether this age-related decline in task switching performance was mediated by variability in global or regional white matter microstructural health. Seventy cognitively intact adults (43¿87 years) completed a cued-trials task switching paradigm. Microstructural white matter measures were derived using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analyses on the diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) sequence. Task switching performance decreased with increasing age and radial diffusivity (RaD), a measure of white matter microstructure that is sensitive to myelin structure. RaD mediated the relationship between age and task switching performance. However, the relationship between RaD and task switching performance remained significant when controlling for age and was stronger in the presence of cardiovascular risk factors. Variability in error and RT mixing cost were associated with RaD in global white matter and in frontoparietal white matter tracts, respectively. These findings suggest that age-related increase in mixing cost may result from both global and tract-specific disruption of cerebral white matter linked to the increased incidence of cardiovascular risks in older adults. Hum Brain Mapp 38:1588¿1603, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

DOI 10.1002/hbm.23473
Citations Scopus - 1
Co-authors Mark Parsons, Frini Karayanidis, Christopher Levi, Pat Michie
2016 Jolly TAD, Cooper PS, Wan Ahmadul Badwi SA, Phillips NA, Rennie JL, Levi CR, et al., 'Microstructural white matter changes mediate age-related cognitive decline on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)', Psychophysiology, 53 258-267 (2016) [C1]

© 2016 Society for Psychophysiological Research. Although the relationship between aging and cognitive decline is well established, there is substantial individual variability in... [more]

© 2016 Society for Psychophysiological Research. Although the relationship between aging and cognitive decline is well established, there is substantial individual variability in the degree of cognitive decline in older adults. The present study investigates whether variability in cognitive performance in community-dwelling older adults is related to the presence of whole brain or tract-specific changes in white matter microstructure. Specifically, we examine whether age-related decline in performance on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), a cognitive screening tool, is mediated by the white matter microstructural decline. We also examine if this relationship is driven by the presence of cardiovascular risk factors or variability in cerebral arterial pulsatility, an index of cardiovascular risk. Sixty-nine participants (aged 43-87) completed behavioral and MRI testing including T1 structural, T2-weighted FLAIR, and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) sequences. Measures of white matter microstructure were calculated using diffusion tensor imaging analyses on the DWI sequence. Multiple linear regression revealed that MoCA scores were predicted by radial diffusivity (RaD) of white matter beyond age or other cerebral measures. While increasing age and arterial pulsatility were associated with increasing RaD, these factors did not mediate the relationship between total white matter RaD and MoCA. Further, the relationship between MoCA and RaD was specific to participants who reported at least one cardiovascular risk factor. These findings highlight the importance of cardiovascular risk factors in the presentation of cognitive decline in old age. Further work is needed to establish whether medical or lifestyle management of these risk factors can prevent or reverse cognitive decline in old age.

DOI 10.1111/psyp.12565
Citations Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Mark Parsons, Frini Karayanidis, Pat Michie, Karen Drysdale, Christopher Levi
2016 Cooper PS, Darriba Á, Karayanidis F, Barceló F, 'Contextually sensitive power changes across multiple frequency bands underpin cognitive control', NeuroImage, 132 499-511 (2016) [C1]

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. Flexible control of cognition bestows a remarkable adaptability to a broad range of contexts. While cognitive control is known to rely on frontoparietal neur... [more]

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. Flexible control of cognition bestows a remarkable adaptability to a broad range of contexts. While cognitive control is known to rely on frontoparietal neural architecture to achieve this flexibility, the neural mechanisms that allow such adaptability to context are poorly understood. In the current study, we quantified contextual demands on the cognitive control system via a priori estimation of information across three tasks varying in difficulty (oddball, go/nogo, and switch tasks) and compared neural responses across these different contexts. We report evidence of the involvement of multiple frequency bands during preparation and implementation of cognitive control. Specifically, a common frontoparietal delta and a central alpha process corresponded to rule implementation and motor response respectively. Interestingly, we found evidence of a frontal theta signature that was sensitive to increasing amounts of information and a posterior parietal alpha process only seen during anticipatory rule updating. Importantly, these neural signatures of context processing match proposed frontal hierarchies of control and together provide novel evidence of a complex interplay of multiple frequency bands underpinning flexible, contextually sensitive cognition.

DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.010
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 4
Co-authors Frini Karayanidis
2016 Karayanidis F, Keuken MC, Wong A, Rennie JL, de Hollander G, Cooper PS, et al., 'The Age-ility Project (Phase 1): Structural and functional imaging and electrophysiological data repository', NeuroImage, 124 1137-1142 (2016) [C1]

© 2015 Published by Elsevier Inc. Our understanding of the complex interplay between structural and functional organisation of brain networks is being advanced by the development... [more]

© 2015 Published by Elsevier Inc. Our understanding of the complex interplay between structural and functional organisation of brain networks is being advanced by the development of novel multi-modal analyses approaches. The Age-ility Project (Phase 1) data repository offers open access to structural MRI, diffusion MRI, and resting-state fMRI scans, as well as resting-state EEG recorded from the same community participants (n = 131, 15-35 y, 66 male). Raw imaging and electrophysiological data as well as essential demographics are made available via the NITRC website. All data have been reviewed for artifacts using a rigorous quality control protocol and detailed case notes are provided.

DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.04.047
Citations Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Aaron Wong, Mark Parsons, Pat Michie, Frini Karayanidis
2015 Cooper PS, Wong ASW, Fulham WR, Thienel R, Mansfield E, Michie PT, Karayanidis F, 'Theta frontoparietal connectivity associated with proactive and reactive cognitive control processes', NeuroImage, 108 354-363 (2015) [C1]

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Cognitive control involves both proactive and reactive processes. Paradigms that rely on reactive control have shown that frontoparietal oscillatory synchron... [more]

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Cognitive control involves both proactive and reactive processes. Paradigms that rely on reactive control have shown that frontoparietal oscillatory synchronization in the theta frequency band is associated with interference control. This study examines whether proactive control is also associated with connectivity in the same frontoparietal theta network or involves a distinct neural signature. A task-switching paradigm was used to differentiate between proactive and reactive control processes, involved in preparing to switch or repeat a task and resolving post-target interference, respectively. We confirm that reactive control is associated with frontoparietal theta connectivity. Importantly, we show that proactive control is also associated with theta band oscillatory synchronization but in a different frontoparietal network. These findings support the existence of distinct proactive and reactive cognitive control processes that activate different theta frontoparietal oscillatory networks.

DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.12.028
Citations Scopus - 11Web of Science - 11
Co-authors Frini Karayanidis, Renate Thienel, Pat Michie, Elise Mansfield, Aaron Wong
2015 Cooper PS, Garrett PM, Rennie JL, Karayanidis F, 'Task uncertainty can account for mixing and switch costs in task-switching.', PLoS One, 10 e0131556 (2015) [C1]
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0131556
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Frini Karayanidis
Show 6 more journal articles

Conference (7 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Conley A, Jolly T, Rennie J, Cooper P, Bateman G, Parsons M, et al., 'LONGITUDINAL CHANGES IN CEREBROVASCULAR HEALTH ON WHITE MATTER MICROSTRUCTURE AND COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE', PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY (2016)
Co-authors Christopher Levi, Frini Karayanidis, Mark Parsons
2016 Karayanidis F, Jolly T, Cooper P, Rennie J, Levi C, Lenroot R, et al., 'TASK SWITCHING PERFORMANCE IN OLDER ADULTS IS LINKED TO GLOBAL AND TRACT-SPECIFIC CHANGES TO WHITE MATTER MICROSTRUCTURE', PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY (2016)
Co-authors Christopher Levi, Frini Karayanidis
2016 Barcelo F, Cooper PS, 'A taxonomy of fronto-parietal P3-like positivities based on information theoretic models of cognitive control', INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY (2016)
DOI 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2016.07.179
2015 Karayanidis F, Cooper PS, Wong AS, Hunter M, Rennie J, Fulham WR, Michie PT, 'MIDFRONTAL THETA TO GOAL UNCERTAINTY: VARIABILITY RELATED TO INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN ANXIETY AND COGNITIVE CONTROL EFFICIENCY', PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY (2015) [E3]
Co-authors Pat Michie, Frini Karayanidis, Aaron Wong
2012 Cooper PS, Brown C, Tuyl A, Fulham WR, Michie PT, Karayanidis F, 'Variability in resting state EEG and task switching performance', Front. Hum. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: ACNS-2012 Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Conference (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Pat Michie, Frini Karayanidis
2012 Karayanidis F, Jolly TAD, Cooper PS, Levi CR, Parsons MW, Michie PT, 'Disruption to frontal white matter pathways on performance in the task-switching paradigm', Front. Hum. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: ACNS-2012 Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Conference (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Mark Parsons, Pat Michie, Christopher Levi, Frini Karayanidis
2012 Karayanidis F, Cooper P, Jolly TAD, Michie PT, Parsons MW, Levi CR, Fulham WR, 'The influence of white matter changes with ageing and mild ischemic attacks on cognitive flexibility', International Journal of Stroke (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Pat Michie, Frini Karayanidis, Christopher Levi, Mark Parsons
Show 4 more conferences
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 2
Total funding $12,815

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20171 grants / $8,315

Jennie Thomas Medical Research Travel Grant$8,315

Funding body: Hunter Medical Research Institute

Funding body Hunter Medical Research Institute
Project Team Doctor Patrick Cooper
Scheme Jennie Thomas Medical Research Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1701056
Type Of Funding Grant - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFG
UON Y

20161 grants / $4,500

Task-switching is not EZ: Toward development of appropriate models of cognitive flexibility $4,500

Funding body: Keats Endowment Research Fund

Funding body Keats Endowment Research Fund
Project Team Doctor Patrick Cooper, Doctor Aaron Wong, Associate Professor Frini Karayanidis
Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2016
GNo G1501539
Type Of Funding Grant - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFG
UON Y
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News

How cardio risk impacts cognitive ageing

December 16, 2016

New research at the University of Newcastle’s Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory indicates that cardiovascular health can significantly impact cognitive function in older adults.

Dr Patrick Cooper

Positions

Post Doctoral Research Fellow
School of Psychology
Faculty of Science

Casual Administrative Assistant
School of Psychology
Faculty of Science

Casual Academic
School of Psychology
Faculty of Science

Contact Details

Email patrick.cooper@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4985 4324

Office

Room W259
Building Behavioural Sciences Building
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