Cécile Gal

PhD Student (Marie Curie Doctoral Fellow)







Dr Teodora Gliga (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)
Dr Marie Smith (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Dr Eng. Raul Mureșan (Transylvanian Institute of Neuroscience, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)

Research interests

My PhD research investigates individual strategies for active learning. I study how people decide to learn about something: how they select relevant information, what motivates them to stay engaged, what happens when they disengage. In particular, I am interested in how this work with infants, who are learning about the whole world around them. My experiments use EEG, eye-tracking, behavioural observation and parent-report questionnaires to investigate these questions both with adults and infants.

My time is split between the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development in London (UK) and Neurodynamics & the Transylvanian Institute for Neuroscience in Cluj-Napoca (Romania). Currently, I’m based in Romania.

My project is one of five within the INTERLEARN European Industrial Doctorate programme. It is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 721895. Thanks to Birkbeck’s Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund, I have received additional funding to continue my project through some of 2021.

Research and teaching positions

Demonstrator (2018-2019): Birkbeck, University of London, Introduction to Research Methods module, BSc in Psychology.

Research Assistant (2016-2017): École Normale Supérieure (Paris, France), Babylab, team of Prof. S. Kouider.


PhD in Psychology (2017-present): Birkbeck, University of London, UK.

Dual Masters in Brain and Mind Science (2014-2016)
- London (MSc): University College London, Thesis 1: Neural representations of regularities in sound sequences (UCL Ear Institute, Prof. M. Chait & Dr N. Barascud).
- Paris (Masters): University Pierre and Marie Curie and École Normale Supérieure, Thesis 2: Temporal integration of social and emotional cues in Social Anxiety Disorder (Paris Brain and Spine Institute, Dr S. Dubal)

Licence (BSc) in Bioscience, double major Chemistry and Biology (2011-2014): University Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris, France.


R. Southwell*, A. Baumann*, C. Gal*, N. Barascud, K. Friston, M. Chait (2017). Is predictability salient? A story of attentional capture by auditory patterns. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0105 (* These authors contributed equally to this study.)

Conference posters

C. Gal, V. V. Moca, I. Țincaș, M. L. Smith, T. Gliga, R. C. Mureșan (2018). Task predictability determines knowledge acquisition during object recognition. European Conference on Visual Perception, Trieste (Italy).

C. Gal, V. V. Moca, I. Tincas, M. Smith, T. Gliga, R. Muresan (2018), Dynamics of information sampling during the recognition of altered visual objects. ETF2018, Multi-Disciplinary Developmental Dynamics (Norwich, UK).

Conference talks

C. Gal (2020, Dec.), Individual differences for active learning strategies in infants, 21st Century learning – from Infancy to Childhood, online.

C. Gal*, E. Piccardi, M. Smith, R. Muresan, T. Gliga (2021, Apr.), Infants’ processing of distractors is associated with group-coherent modulation of occipital gamma bursts, in paper symposium Recognising and shaping opportunities for learning: neurocognitive insight into active learning in early infancy, Society for Research in Child Development Virtual Biennial Meeting, online. (* Presenting author)

C. Gal (2020, Dec.), Individual differences for active learning strategies in infants, 21st Century learning – from Infancy to Childhood, online.


2020 – Birkbeck’s Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund
6-month post-doctoral funding.

2014 – Sorbonne Universities, Excellence scholarship
Awarded based on academic standing for studying abroad (MSc at UCL, London).

Public engagement

2017-2019: Babybrains (educational association: Neuroscience for parents)
Website creator and science blog post writer.

2015-2017: Cognivence (Paris association of students in Cognitive Science)
Founder and organiser of the Cognitive Roundtables (monthly students journal club).
Co-organiser of the Cognitive Science Forum (national public dissemination event, ~3,000 attendees in 2016).