This is the website for a research project entitled “Neurodiversity in Online Education: Investigating the Role of Cognitive Load in Online Learning” carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, between October 2021 and September 2024.

Research project

A critical function of the brain is to process, store, and retrieve information. Working memory is a cognitive system that can temporarily hold a limited amount of information for use in current cognitive tasks. It is known to support planning, reasoning, decision-making, creative thinking, and problem-solving.

The challenge is: working memory is inherently limited in capacity and duration. Cognitive load refers to the used amount of working memory resources, which may affect the way we learn. There has been research exploring the relationship between cognitive load and learning outcomes in online education, but not much is known as to how neurodivergent students may be affected differently.

Drawing from techniques in cognitive neuroscience and educational psychology, this project investigates the main factors affecting cognitive load in online learning, how the impact of cognitive load varies between students in neurodiverse classrooms, and how instructional design can modulate brain activity related to cognitive load in online learning for both neurotypical and neurodivergent students.

Ultimately, the aim of this project is to advance the field of neurodiversity research by publishing evidence-based guidelines to help educators design inclusive online learning experiences, ensuring that no learner is left behind.

Research team

Anne-Laure Le Cunff (principal investigator) is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. Her primary research interest is the application of neuroscience to the field of education. She is also the founder of Ness Labs, an online school for knowledge workers to learn how to learn and how to manage their mental health at work.

Dr Eleanor Dommett (co-supervisor) is a Reader in Neuroscience and the deputy director of the BSc Psychology degree at King’s College London. Her primary research is in distractibility and its basis in the brain, including in ADHD. She has extensive experience of online and distance education and conducting research into staff and student perspectives of online education.

Dr Vincent Giampietro (co-supervisor) is a Reader in Neuroscience & Digital Education in the Department of Neuroimaging at King’s College London. His current research focuses on understanding and reinforcing how the brain learns. He also occupies a leading education role, co-directing the Curriculum & Digital Innovation team in his faculty.

To ensure that we seek the views of, and properly serve, the communities we are studying, this research project is participatory. Members of our Research Advisory Board are co-researchers, providing feedback and suggestions at each step of the research projects.

Get involved

We are currently recruiting participants for the second phase of the research project. Learn more.

We also regularly give presentations about our research output. You can register to join future events.

Please do contact us if you have any feedback, suggestions, helpful information, or collaboration opportunities you would like to share.

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