A Fulbright scientist to study the impact of virtual learning on children

Nicole Occidental is an expert on mouse aggression. His work at Massachusetts General Hospital is dedicated to studying what happens mentally when mice steal from each other.

“I really loved the design of this experience. This is its first appearance, ”says Occidental, who recently received a full scholarship U.S. Fulbright Student Program will begin his master’s degree in cognitive neurology next year at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.

But although she is passionate about her thief mice, Occidental really wants to study the impact of virtual learning on children, a research topic she intends to delve into during her postgraduate studies in the Netherlands.

“I feel that this topic unites all the research I’ve done as a student in cooperatives and labs where I’ve worked,” says Occidental, who graduated this spring from the Northeast with a degree in behavioral neurology.

Nicole Occidental, who studies neuroscience, received a Fulbright scholarship to study the long-term effects of virtual collaboration on the human brain. Photo by Matthew Moduno / Northeastern University

Since his first year of study, Occidental has worked at Northeastern’s Cognitive and Brain Health Center that he is studying the effects of exercise on the nerves. She believes that this work, along with her research at MGH, has made her stand out among other students who have applied for the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.

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His field of study – social neurology – is a relatively new discipline in a wider range of neurology. “Not many people do such experiments in which they use animal subjects to model human cognition,” he said. “I think I’ve made a difference because I’m working on experiments that have never been done before.”

In Maastricht, Occidental hopes to acquire the technical skills he knows he needs to pursue a doctorate in medicine and philosophy, which he intends to pursue after completing his studies in the Netherlands.

“During some of my postgraduate research, I felt limited because I didn’t have computational skills, for example, I had to see the structural connection behind some of the mouse project behaviors,” he says. “These are the skills I want to acquire during my postgraduate studies.”

She says Occidental, who has never traveled outside the United States in more than a week, is excited about living abroad, especially in a centralized country like the Netherlands.

She says she chose the University of Maastricht because it has one of the best neuroscience programs in all postgraduate school. In addition, being in the Netherlands allows him to pursue his second hobby after neurology – longboarding.

“The Dutch people have a completely different style than the American people,” he says. “They do a lot of freestyle tricks that you don’t see here.”

When the pandemic began and the Occidental returned home to Arkansas, he needed a new way of passing time. She learned how to longboard from Dutch skateboarders ’YouTube videos.

“I was very excited to get my master’s degree and at the same time learn the longboard style from these people,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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