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Professor Ross Cunnington
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Professor Ross Cunnington
Ross established his laboratory at UQ in 2007 following positions at the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne and the University of Vienna. He holds a joint position with the Qld Brain Institute and the School of Psychology. His research group focuses on the brain processes involved in the planning and preparation for action and in the perception and imitation of others’ actions.
+61 7 3346 6330
+61 7 3365 4466
Postal Address:

School of Psychology
University of Queensland
St Lucia, Qld, 4069

Joint Position
Principal Research Fellow
Queensland Brain Institute

Picture of 'Professor Ross Cunnington'
Professor Ross Cunnington

Brief History

I began research examining brain processes underlying the preparation for voluntary action during my PhD at Monash University. I moved to the University of Vienna as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 1998 where I began research with functional MRI brain imaging, examining the supplementary motor area and it's contribution to the planning and readiness for action. I returned to Melbourne as a Senior Research Fellow at the Howard Florey Institute in 2001, joining the Neuroimaging and Neuroinformatics Lab.

In January 2007 I established my lab at the University of Queensland where I am now appointed as Principal Research Fellow in the School of Psychology and the Queensland Brain Institute.

Picture of 'Professor Ross Cunnington'
Professor Ross Cunnington
Research Activities:

Research Focus

Research of my group focuses on the brain processes involved in the planning and preparation for action and in the perception and imitation of others' actions.

Whenever we plan, imagine, or observe someone else performing an action, our own motor system responsible for representing and executing the action are also involved. The higher motor areas, the supplementary motor area and premotor cortex, are thought to play an important role in planning and maintaining readiness for action prior to movement initiation. The inferior parietal cortex and premotor cortex are key parts of a "mirror neuron" system that is thought to link the visual processing of observed actions and the motor system, important for understanding and imitating others' actions.

Research in my lab focuses on the brain processes crucial for planning and representing actions prior to initiation, for imitating actions, and for perceiving and understanding the actions of others.

Major Research Projects

Attention and the readiness for action
Activity of premotor and supplementary motor areas begins up to 2 s prior to voluntary movement. We are examining the cognitive and "intentional" processes that precede the initiation of voluntary movement, in readiness for action.

Perception and Imitation of others' actions
The human mirror system is thought to provide a mechanism for directly matching observed actions to equivalent motor representations in the motor system, linking visual and motor areas. We are examining how the observation of others' actions can influence our own motor system and our performance of movement, and how our own plans for action can influence our visual processing and perception of others' actions.

Techniques used in the lab

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
3T MRI scanner (Siemens Prisma) on campus for Cognitive Neuroscience research (with concurrent EEG, eye-tracking, physiological monitoring, infra-red motion capture)
7T MRI scanner (Siemens) on campus for high-resolution fMRI
Image Analysis Lab with FSL, SPM software on 64-node cluster computer

EEG Event-related potentials (ERPs)
128-channel BioSemi EEG system in School of Psychology
64-channel BioSemi EEG system in Queensland Brain Institute
64-channel BrainAmp MR (Brain Products) for concurrent EEG-fMRI studies
BESA and Analyzer2 software for EEG analysis and source localisation

Picture of 'Professor Ross Cunnington'
Professor Ross Cunnington
The human brain - action and attention. Functional MRI and EEG event-related potentials, measuring neural activity. Mirror neuron system. Perception of others` actions.
Brain function - biological deficits, Attention and brain function, Brain - neural activity, MRI - brain activity, EEG - brain activity
Course Coordinator:
  • Semester 2, 2016
    PSYC1020 - Introduction to Psychology: Physiological and Cognitive Psychology
  • Semester 1, 2011
    NEUR7005 - Cognitive Behavioural Neuroscience

Note: Coordinator roles prior to 2009 and tutor roles prior to 2006 are not included.

Research Area:
Cognition and Neuroscience

I have places for two Honours students to join my lab. My research focuses on brain function which underlies the selection and readiness for action and the role of the human "mirror" system in the perception and imitation of actions and gestures.

Research projects will use methods of functional brain imaging (fMRI) or EEG event-related potentials to examine the perception of observed hand actions, or the links between attention and the readiness for action.

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