Atiqah Azhari


Biographical Profile

Atiqah is a social neuroscientist who investigates interpersonal brain, physiological and behavioural mechanisms in dyadic and group settings to identify underlying signatures that may be predictive of important outcomes such as well-being, social cohesion, learning and performance. She employs a multi-disciplinary approach, using, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electrocardiogram (ECG), and behavioural analyses to uncover the biological and social processes underlying social interactions. Atiqah has a special research interest in investigating the temporal matching of brain signals (i.e., brain-to-brain synchrony) when individuals engage in dyadic and group processes. Some of her latest work include elucidating the effects of physical presence on the brain synchrony of married couples, and the effects of parenting stress and attachment on brain-to-brain synchrony of parent-child dyads when they engage in everyday activities like watching movies and playing together.

Atiqah has published numerous first author papers in high-impact journals and presented her findings in international conferences. Her work has been featured in media outlets both locally and around the globe, drawing a wide range of scientific and public audiences. She has recently been interviewed by Member of Parliament Dr. Janil Puthucheary for a social neuroscience segment on Channel NewsAsia. Atiqah has been awarded several ministerial and community research grants and she contributes to the research community as a reviewer of international peer-reviewed scientific journals, including Frontiers, Research in Developmental Disabilities and Acta. Having presented lectures and seminars, and conducted tutorial classes, in Singapore, Italy and Japan, Atiqah has accrued invaluable teaching and mentorship experiences.

 Research Interests

(1) Brain-to-brain Synchrony

 When two or more individuals engage in the same social activity, their brain and physiological signals tend to be coordinated to each other, and this temporal alignment is known as synchrony. Some of my key research thrusts hope to answer fundamental questions regarding brain and physiological synchrony: What drives synchrony in two or more people? Is synchrony predictive of important social outcomes like quality of social bonding and task performance? What individual factors (e.g., personality, well-being), dyadic/group factors (e.g., quality of relationships) and situational factors (e.g., engaging in a cooperative task) influence synchrony? My work hopes to answer these essential questions, and by doing so, identify key dyadic and group markers that can be applied to the development of neuroscience-informed tools.

 (2) Interpersonal Mechanisms of Well-being

 This research area examines the relationship between interpersonal processes and measures of well-being. My studies have shown that brain responses in mother-child dyads during naturalistic bonding activities such as co-viewing of the television and free-play is significantly influenced by parameters of well-being, such as stress and attachment insecurity. This raises the possibility of further examining interpersonal neural, physiological and behavioural markers of social functioning which are often undermined by mental health problems and clinical disorders (e.g., stress, depression, anxiety).

 (3) Interpersonal Mechanisms of Social Cohesion

 An understanding of interpersonal mechanisms that underpin social interactions is crucial in order to foster social cohesion at the dyadic and group levels. My work has investigated how situational settings influence brain responses in married couples with children to facilitate cohesion and joint parenting responses. Another ongoing research employs a dyadic perspective to tackle the issue of social cohesion in society. This interdisciplinary work examines brain and behavioural responses in mother-child dyads as they view and discuss about different racially-salient and multicultural narratives in Singapore. What are the brain and behavioural mechanisms involved during parent-child interactions regarding race, and how does it relate to multicultural attitudes and children’s development of racial perception? Future studies hope to expand this body of work and examine interpersonal processes that support social cohesion in larger group settings.


 Research Interest in the Neuroscience of Learning and Education

 (1) Interpersonal Mechanisms of Learning

 A central part of learning in formal classroom settings and in less structured home and organisational environments is the interpersonal process that occurs between the teacher and the learner. Emerging studies have shown that dyadic neural signatures, like brain synchrony, may be predictive of learning outcomes. One of my ongoing research examines the brain and behavioural processes of mother-child dyads to determine interpersonal mechanisms that may predict the child’s learning outcomes in the areas of language comprehension and acquisition. This research area examines the interpersonal mechanisms that support learning, and knowledge of this may fine-tune and enhance pedagogical strategies in formal and informal learning settings. I hope to expand this area of research to examine interpersonal processes of adult learning in workplace/organisational and tertiary educational settings, and, as an extension, examine whether mechanisms that support learning predict performance.

 (2) Socio-affective Mechanisms of Learning

 The socio-affective processes of interpersonal learning, such as the role of affect, motivation, warmth, and rapport during collaborative learning, and that between teacher and students, have not received much in-depth investigation. This is an area of research that I am interested in pursuing and learning more about from CRADLE.