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Researcher aims to uncover the mystery of ‘mate selection’


Brigid Veale
27 July 2011
Understanding how humans are attracted to each other will be the focus of a four-month study by Southern Cross University psychology researcher Dr Anna Brooks, who has received a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation Fellowship.

Dr Brooks, from the Coffs Harbour campus, will head to Switzerland in August where she will be working with Professor Olaf Blanke, who heads the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Brain Mind Institute.

The study will continue a long-term collaboration between Southern Cross University and the Swiss laboratory.

Dr Brooks said the focus of her research was on how our brains process the visual cues related to ‘mate selection’.

“It’s understanding how people are attracted to each other and working out what the underlying biological processes are,” Dr Brooks said.

“We know from behavioural data that the more symmetrical a person is, the more attractive that person will be judged. That has been found to be true across the board, regardless of race. What we want to find out is how the brain processes that information.”

She said the laboratory, based in Lausanne, included a fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonsance Imaging) facility which would allow her to see real time brain activity.

“The biggest scientific challenge we face is understanding how the brain works. This is just one part of that. Our brains are the source of everything we do but we are only just starting to understand what drives those behaviours.

“When it comes to human behaviours, there are few that are more important than mate selection.”

Research at the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience is carried out by a multidisciplinary team of biologists, psychologists, medical doctors, physicists, engineers and computer scientists.

Professor Blanke’s work focuses on the functional and neural mechanisms of body perception, corporeal awareness and self consciousness.

Dr Brooks spent time in Switzerland with Professor Blanke in 2008 and 2009 after winning national scientific grants through the Australian Academy of Science by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Photo: Dr Anna Brooks will be heading to Switzerland in August after receiving a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation Fellowship.