Newsletter Article

Cognition, Brain and Behavior

The study of the mind goes back thousands of years. Current technology allows us to not only evaluate experimentally cognitive functions, but it also allows us to begin to understand the underlying biological mechanisms. In recent years, Psychology faculty (led by Dr. Scott Murray) secured a $2M NSF grant to purchase a state-of-the-art fMRI scanner. By partnering with the Radiology Department, this scanner was used to establish a new Brain Imaging center for research and clinical purposes.

The scanner provides detailed images of the spatial distribution of neural activity across different areas of the brain. To provide greater temporal resolution of brain activity during cognitive processing, this year the Department of Psychology will establish an Electrophysiology Research Facility that will allow researchers to record the ongoing, continuous electrical signals of populations of neurons in the forms of an electrocephalogram (EEG) and/or specific evoked neural responses or of Evoked Response Potentials (ERP; see panel below for a more detailed description).

The Brain Imaging Center and the Electrophysiology Research Facility will be available to a wide range of faculty (e.g. behavioral neuroscience, developmental, social, cognitive, and clinical psychologists), thereby providing the resources for a strong foundation of interdisciplinary research. One of this year’s Edwards lecturers (Dr. Lee Osterhout p.10) demonstrated how EEG and ERP technology has allowed us to probe the brain mechanisms of language development and processing (pg. 10).