Dr. Alex Li’s Research Project on the Neural Correlates of Subjective Time Perception

(10 October 2017)

Dr. Alex Li is recently the Associate Professor and Head of Department of Counselling & Psychology at Hong Kong Shue Yan University. Dr. Li obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong, where he developed his professional expertise in cognitive neuroscience. This year, Dr. Li has been successfully granted a funding of HKD$709,742 which is supported by the Research Grant Council to conduct a Faculty Development Scheme (FDS) project with a title ‘A systematic examination of the neural correlates of subjective time perception with fMRI and tDCS’. Dr. Li has shared his recent research work with us in an interview.

About the Project

Dr. Li mentioned that this project composes of several stages. It mainly studies the underlying theories, factors, and mechanism of individuals’ subjective time perception. The very first stage was an experiment of behavioral measures, for example recording and analyzing participants’ perceived duration of time.  The present study is going to combine the usage of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to examine the correlates of subjective time perception. It is anticipated that the project would enhance an understanding to the mechanism of time perception. In the earlier years, theories in this field were applied to the studies of consumer behavior. This study integrates the knowledge from psychology and neuroscience of time perception which provides a theoretical foundation for future application study of other disciplines.

Current Progress and Challenges Encountered

Dr. Li and his collaborator Dr. Kenneth Yuen are concurrently handling two research projects that involves the use of brain stimulation and brain imaging techniques. The above project is in fact an extension of another project namely ‘Neural mechanisms of time perception: a fMRI study’. Dr. Li appreciated the support provided by Shue Yan’s Institutional Development Scheme (IDS), as it has offered both equipment and manpower in the course of his data collection. In addition, IDS has been organizing lectures and seminars delivered by overseas scholars and researchers in neuroscience during the past two years. These activities enable direct interaction among academics in various backgrounds such as neuroscience, psychology, business, etc. Such interdisciplinary platform has allowed knowledge exchange and more collaboration opportunities. Dr. Li said that collaboration can bring in new ideas and insights which help resolve many problems and challenges encountered in the research process. He encouraged Shue Yan academics and researchers who want to pursue research should make good use of this platform and the resources provided by the IDS.

Research Experience Sharing

Last but not least, Dr. Li has shared his experience in research. He stressed the importance of time management and grabbing opportunities to collaborate with other scholars. Since his research involves the study of human subjects, he needs to be very careful. A lot of meticulous preparatory work and pilot tests are necessary to ensure safety and for accurate analysis. Such preliminary works could be very time-consuming. Therefore, researchers who perform neuro-experiments require good time management skills and should be prepared for failures and unexpected constraints, these situations are very common and definitely are a headache to researchers.  He also finds collaboration opportunities very valuable, as collaborators can always boost the motivation and intellectual sharing.

Dr. Li is passionate about cognitive neuroscience, therefore he is willing to devote his time and efforts in his research. He advised students who wants to be a researcher should keep their passion in research. Researchers are required to be adventurous and creative in exploring their ideas, and think out of the box. Dr. Li advised students to join internship program and extracurricular apprenticeship to widen their exposure. Besides, understanding the importance of ethics in human resources is crucial, particularly for researchers performing brain experiments. Dr. Li welcomes students to discuss with him when they are in need.