Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Professor Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky

Main Campus

Applications Close
04 Jun 2024

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (2024 rates) available to domestic applicants only

About this project

Investigate how the brain best learns new information and how that's facilitated by feedback types and model updating

If you are driven to build a career in cognitive neuroscience and interested in enhancing learning in educational settings, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE), in partnership with the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L).

A prominent theory in cognitive neuroscience proposes that the human brain constructs internal models of the world to facilitate effective interaction with our environment. These models are continually updated by generating and testing predictions about what we perceive through our senses. Error feedback plays a crucial role in this process as model updating occurs when there is a discrepancy between the predicted and actual sensory input, termed a “prediction error”. 

Extant literature suggests that a similar mechanism underlies memory consolidation and learning, with error feedback enhancing memory performance. However, it is unclear which type of feedback is most effective for different learning contexts. Various theories suggest the existence of error-related or feedback-based mechanisms related to model updating, learning and memory, but the impact of different strategies of error-related feedback has not been compared to date.

In this project, you’ll investigate how memory updating elicited by various feedback types influences prediction errors and how these, in turn, impact memory performance. It will compare various methods of feedback delivery and assess their efficacy in determining learning outcomes. Participants’ electrical brain activity will be monitored throughout, thus allowing for the observation of neurocognitive markers of model updating to shed light on the underlying mechanisms of feedback-induced model updating. Individual differences between learners and the context in which feedback is encountered will also be considered.

The project has the potential to further our understanding of the conditions under which the brain best learns new information and specifically how learning is facilitated by the relationship between feedback types and model updating. Understanding what type of feedback works best in what learning context for each individual could enhance student learning in educational settings.

You’ll be situated in the world-class Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory (CNL) in IVE on UniSA’s Magill campus and directed by principal supervisor Professor Bornkessel-Schlesewsky. The laboratory houses five state-of-the-art EEG systems, a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) system with neuronavigation, and two eye trackers. 

Through co-supervisor Prof. Shane Dawson, you will also be affiliated with C3L. The industry focused centre undertakes a range of research on the complex relationship between human and artificial cognition, and how it changes society, knowledge processes, and teaching and learning. Through the centre you will be exposed to a range of education research methodologies and have the opportunity to connect your research outcomes to real-work practice in education settings.

The inclusion of associate supervisor Dr Zachariah Cross (Northwestern University) in the supervisory panel will provide an international perspective and connect you to international research networks.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will collect and analyse data, using your qualitative and quantitative skills. Specifically, you will use electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioural methods. 

You will be a valued member of the CNL, taking part in lab meetings, workshops on research methods, and research activities offered through IVE and C3L such as short courses and seminars.

You will present your work at national and international conferences and may have the opportunity to visit Associate Supervisor Dr Cross at Northwestern University in Chicago. These activities will help hone your communication and networking skills.

Upon graduation, you will be equipped with in-demand skills and abilities in an important field of research.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in IVE. As a world leader in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), IVE is a unique alignment of computer science, engineering, neuroscience, art, architecture, and design.  

IVE is responding to the challenge of increased demand for AR and VR technologies globally. Our researchers are leaders in many areas of AR and VR research including wearable computing, interface design, empathic computing, 3D visualisation, perception, and telepresence.  

IVE is one of the largest concentrations of AR and VR research in Australia. Our vast experience in advanced manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT), interactive art, and design for healthcare and defence allows us to work in collaboration with our industry partners to transform industry and solve large-scale societal challenges.

Supervisory team

Financial Support

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $50,291 per annum. A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included. For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information.

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to applications from Australian or New Zealand citizens, and Australian permanent residents or permanent humanitarian visa holders. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Additionally, applicants must meet the projects selection criteria:
  • Theoretical and practical knowledge within the field of cognitive neuroscience
  • Previous experience with EEG-based research including practical experience in data collection
  • Skills in data analysis techniques relevant to cognitive neuroscience, including prior coding experience (R and/or Python desirable) and an understanding of contemporary statistical methods used in this field
All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our Magill campus in the east of Adelaide.

Essential Dates

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer. Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Tuesday 4 June 2024.   

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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