Brooke Brady, PhD Candidate

Brooke Brady

Brooke Brady, a PhD Candidate from the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, is using the research labs within the Science Building at the Parramatta South campus to investigate ageing and emotion regulation.

Brooke invites older members of the community, aged 65 and above, to attend the labs within the Science Building. Whilst there, she may ask them to sit in a reclining chair to watch an emotive video, or to wear a headset to enter a virtual environment.

One of the virtual environments is specifically designed to measure levels of fear. The simulation involves travelling to the roof of a city skyscraper via an elevator, where participants are asked if they would feel comfortable taking a step out onto a plank. Using mindfulness and meditation exercises, Brooke then guides the participants through strategies that can be used to control and deal with their fear of falling.

Using stick-on electrodes placed strategically over the eyebrows, the technology in the Science Building allows Brooke to pick up on physical reactions on participants’ faces that are so subtle they are often imperceptible, or undetectable to the eye. These facial electromyography readings – combined with measures of cardiac and respiratory activity and blood pressure readings – can provide a thorough analysis of a person’s emotional responses.

Prior to moving to the Parramatta South campus, Brooke conducted similar research in labs at the Bankstown campus. But the research required bigger, better-equipped spaces. Brooke says the move to the Science Building provided the opportunity for teams to take the next step, and to further progress their research.

Brooke says the Science Building is somewhere that she can feel proud of what she is doing.

“In this building I have access to such cutting-edge facilities and technology. The investment by the University has been extraordinary, which makes me feel like the work I am doing is valued and important,” says Brooke.

"I really enjoy meeting my research participants on campus, guiding them to the building and watching their reactions. It’s really a space to be proud of, and to be proud of yourself in.”

Brooke initially enrolled at Western as an undergraduate Bachelor of Psychology student, and has been actively pursuing a career in research. Following the completion of her PhD in 2018, she is aiming to secure a Post Doctorate position in a University with an international reputation for research in emotion science – such as Stanford or Cambridge.

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