IBACS Summer Graduate Fellows

The CT Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences (IBACS) offers 3-month summer fellowships to graduate students working on topics with relevance to the Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The fellowships provide full summer funding and Fellows attend a short grant-writing workshop at the start of the summer period aimed at writing NRSA pre- or post-doctoral fellowship applications, NSF GRFP or SBE applications, and equivalent. Click here for more information about this program.

2018 Summer Graduate Fellows

 

Photo of Sumbleen Ali

Human Development and Family Studies

Sumbleen Ali

Current Research:

I plan to investigate the neurobiology of interpersonal relationships looking at the brain’s functioning using fMRI. The research stems from Panksepp’s (1998) argument that brain mechanisms of distress in interpersonal relationships evolved from pain mechanisms of the brain. His argument was supported by Eisenberger (2003) who showed social rejection is painful and not a mere metaphor. She demonstrated an overlap in the neural circuitry involved in processing pain following both social rejection and physical pain. Currently, it is unknown if adults’ remembrances of parental acceptance-rejection in childhood may have piggybacked onto the threshold of the physical-pain system as well as onto sensitivity to social rejection in adulthood.
Given this void in information, my research proposes to investigate if differences exist in the neural correlates of social pain among young adults who remember having been rejected vs accepted (loved) by their parents in childhood. Results of this research will provide important information about the extent to which remembered childhood rejection influences brain functioning. Also adults who remember having been rejected as children tend to be more sensitive to possible interpersonal rejection than those who remember having been accepted. This research will also examine the extent to which rejection sensitivity is associated with brain functioning. The interdisciplinary nature of this research involves bridging family science and neurobiology

Psychology

Lauren Bryant

Current Research:

My dissertation focuses on the development of executive function (EF; higher-order processes that govern cognition and behavior) during early childhood. EFs are linked to numerous optimal outcomes, including school readiness and academic achievement. Existing research suggests that EFs with/without motivational components (whether children receive a reward based on performance) have different childhood outcomes and rely on different neural pathways. However, due to confounds in the existing methodology, it is not possible distinguish the effects of motivation and different task demands (e.g., language) on children's EF and/or associated outcomes. Furthermore, this work has largely ignored temperament (biologically-based individual differences in self-regulation), which varies with children's approach behaviors and sensitivity to reward. To better understand environmental and biological factors that underlie variations in child EF, I will investigate associations between EF, temperament, and reward by administering two comparable versions of the same Stroop-like task (i.e., with and without performance-contingent reward) and parent-report temperament measures. These methods will be drawn from the existing adult and animal literature on associations between reward, cognition, and behavior. Thus, my study will integrate developmental, cognitive, and emotional/motivational approaches to characterize associations between EF, motivation, and temperament with improved methodology.

 

 

Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

Sarah Camera

Current Research:

Currently, we are in the manuscript preparation stage of this project. While maintaining a full AuD course load and teaching, I've been writing a paper regarding the impact of noise exposure on noise tolerance, which will be submitted for review over winter break. I also have a co-authored paper in review currently. Next Spring, I will be finishing my AuD requirements and therefore not have much time to devote to research, but will be presenting at the American Academy of Audiology conference and meeting regularly with my advisor to review more literature and further develop ideas for the proposed research below. I hope to formalize it with support from the IBACS summer fellowship, begin pilot data collection in Fall 2018, and submit my grant application for the Dec. 8 winter deadline. Because I am concurrently pursuing an AuD and PhD, Fall 2018 is the first semester that I can fully focus my efforts on research, though I will be a 4th year grad student. While working on clinical doctorate requirements has slowed my research progress, I strongly believe that my audiology background allows me a valuable perspective on the intersection of clinical practice and basic hearing research that will strengthen my research with relevant and informative questions that will bridge these two professional worlds. Because my proposed project focuses on subclinical changes, I also may consider my research questions in terms of public health and obtain training in that discipline.

Psychology

Kirsty Coulter

Current Research:

My interests lie in considering interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and improving outcomes in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While intervention work primarily focuses on the behavioral presentation of ASD, considering the mechanisms underlying that behavior may help us to identify subgroups within ASD and provide more individualized treatment.
Before coming to UConn, I developed expertise in Event Related Potential (ERP; netting and behavioral management) paradigms while working with Chuck Nelson, Ph.D. My proposed research uses similar evoked visual ERP paradigms. Specifically, in conjunction with an NIH-funded project aimed at studying individuals previously diagnosed with ASD who achieved optimal outcome (OO; Fein et al., 2013), I propose to use ERP and behavioral judgements to assess multisensory integration abilities. This semester at UConn I have undergone training in appropriate diagnostic tools for ASD (ADOS-2), which are essential for this project, and have drawn out next-steps for this project.
Participants will be recruited starting May 2018; I will pilot and fine-tune the paradigm during Spring 2018 with participant pool subjects and will seek additional mentoring in predictive coding and EEG paradigm analysis. Speedy preparation and implementation of this project is necessary in order to capitalize on this opportunity to study individuals who offer a unique chance to investigate typical behavior and neural functioning after an early autism diagnosis.

Psychology

Ben De Bari

Current Research:

I am continuing my work with the Physical Intelligence Lab, primarily furthering the investigation of a chemical dissipative system. I am working to understand the constraints and conditions leading to self-organization phenomena, and consequent behavioral modes, of a camphor-water system. In addition to this research project, I intend to build on the successes in utilizing the electrodynamic non-equilibrium system, as pioneered by James Dixon and Bruce Kay. In particular, I would like to continue the line of research investigating learning phenomena in non-equilibrium systems. These projects require utilization of ideas from thermodynamics, chemistry, biology, and psychology, integrating them into a non-traditional interdisciplinary methodology.

 
 
Zac_Ekves
Psychology

Zak Ekves

Current Research:

My current research plan is focused on further exploring the role of neural regions associated with episodic memory in the processing of events. My previous analyses have shown that when processing sentences that introduce a new object into the discourse ("He will chop the onion and then weigh another onion"), there is increased connectivity between regions in the left inferior frontal gyrus and hippocampus, compared to sentences that refer back to previously instantiated objects ("He will chop the onion and then weigh the onion"). I intend to conduct an equivalent experiment in the visual domain. This project will be relevant to two related bodies of literature. First, it’s suggested that the hippocampus is functionally divided along the anterior-posterior axis, such that anterior portions are biased towards more global, abstract representation while posterior regions are biased towards local representation (e.g. Poppenk et al., 2013). I predict that processing in language will recruit more anterior portions of the hippocampus (related to more abstract representation), while visual processing will recruit more posterior portions (related to more specified, fine-grained, local representation). Second, by comparing neural activation and connectivity across analogous visual and language event processing tasks, I will be able to tease apart which neural responses are correlates of event cognition proper, as opposed those in one particular domain.

Psychology

Martin Flament-Fultot

Current Research:

One of the main areas of research in the philosophy of mind is intentionality. Current work in tensegrity robotics is partially addressing this topic by studying goal-directed locomotion. But intentionality is best manifested when systems entertain more than one goal and must flexibly accommodate their priorities. This happens in supra postural tasks, where an individual must do something, e.g. with their hands, while keeping their upright posture in balance. Limb movements alter the overall balance, but the balance must support the limb movements. My research focuses on embedding participants in force fields under supra postural tasks in order to analyze the kinematics of how participants control their entire posture while keeping their center of mass over their base of support. Degrees of freedom are expected to be organized by soft assembled patterns of mutual constraint. To assess the nature of these neuro-muscular soft assemblies, I am also further developing the virtual tensegrity model by designing neural networks with the help of genetic algorithms. The purpose of genetic algorithms is to efficiently explore the parameter space (e.g. the coupling matrix) of the network so as to reproduce dynamics equivalent to those observed in humans during postural tasks (e.g. ankle to hip strategy transitions for balance). Genetic algorithms can also help extract non-obvious, higher-order information from the state of the mechanical system that could be exploited efficiently.

Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

Pam Fuhrmeister

Current Research:

My current and upcoming work builds on themes from my previous work and additionally seeks to determine some of the sources of individual variability that is so frequently observed in phonetic learning studies. One study in progress looks at a wider age range of individuals in phonetic learning, including children (10-17 years). In this study, we want to explore critical period effects in perceptual learning of speech sounds and whether the same skills that facilitate speech sound learning in adulthood also predict successful learning in children. This project draws from developmental psychology and clinical speech literature, as some of the measures we are using have been implicated in language and reading disorders. In an upcoming project, we will establish whether structural brain differences (using voxel-based morphometry) and individual differences in structural connectivity (using DTI) predict overnight improvement in phonetic learning or differences in how native-language speech sounds are perceived (e.g., how “categorical” an individual’s perception is). Because previous work found differences in brain morphology in expert phoneticians, we expect that similar differences may also explain the vast individual variability typically observed in phonetic learning studies. As described in the proposed research section, my dissertation will determine the neural bases of generalization in phonetic learning using fMRI and will then validate this by testing people with aphasia.

Kyra_Krass

Psychology

Kyra Krass

Current Research:

I am currently investigating which object states are activated in the brain when hearing various events containing object state change. I have run the behavioral portion of an fMRI study. We administer an associative learning task to our participants over two days, and on day three, they perform a priming task. Our goal is to have participants learn pairs of objects states with faces and houses. For example, they would learn that a chopped onion is associated with faces and an intact onion is associated with houses. When placed in the scanner, we hope to distinguish between the object states activated given that they are now paired with distinct brain areas. Participants will hear sentences in three different conditions: 1) The woman will weigh the onion. 2) The woman will chop the onion. 3) The woman will weigh the chopped onion. We predict that individuals will activate an intact onion when hearing weigh, an intact and chopped onion when hearing chop, and a chopped onion when hearing weigh the chopped onion. My second line of research I will submit for a grant. I am interested in determining what individual difference measures can predict performance in a visual world task. We will use tasks that measure executive functioning (EF), and we will test monolingual and bilingual individuals to see if EF or second language knowledge are measures that can account for differences in performance on a visual world task. This research merges linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience.

Human Development and Family Studies

Timothy McKay

Current Research:

I am currently working under the supervision of Dr. Ryan Watson in exploring topics relevant to minority stress in LGBTQ populations. Specifically, I am studying the impact of gender minority stress in transgender and gender nonconforming individuals (TGNC) as it relates to their cognitive processes and mental health. Specifically, I will be examining rates of depression and substance use in reference to cognition (i.e., decision-making) and degree of gender identity disclosure to family and friends in TGNC populations. Recently, I was accepted to present a poster with Dr. Watson at the American Educational Research Association Conference in April, 2018. I will be presenting trends and disparities in school-based mental health behavior between LGBT and heterosexual student populations in British Columbia, CA. The data examined within our poster presentation is also referenced in a paper that I recently co-authored with Dr. Watson titled: Mental health issues among lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents: Changing inequalities in Canada, which is currently under review for publication in a leading LGBTQ-focused journal. I am also a funded research assistant on a national LGBTQ Teen Youth Study where I am responsible for managing, analyzing, and tracking data use and ongoing manuscripts. The findings from my work on the LGBTQ teen youth study, along with supervision and collaboration with Dr. Watson, have been instrumental in preparing me for this fellowship.

Molecular and Cellular Biology

Natali Naveh

Current Research:

The formation of spines on neuronal dendrites in early development has been linked to learning and memory retention. In the Cux2-null neurons, Xlr3b and Xlr4b were found to be upregulated and, upon introduction of an Xlr shRNA, the phenotype was rescued. In other cell types, Satb1 and Xlr3 were observed to co-localize. This may suggest a role for Xlr3b to act with Satb1 in a Cux2-regulated pathway to mediate the regulation of dendrite spine growth. This phenotype, or Xlr3’s function may contribute to behavioral phenotypes related to those observed in TS. Firstly, Golgi Cox staining will be performed to examine dendrite branching in the context of the Xlr3 knock down. Secondly, as TS is accompanied by poor reversal learning and social cognition, the contribution of Xlr3b to mouse behavior, including these phenotypes, will be determined. This will be carried out with the assistance of the University of Connecticut Murine Behavioral Neurogenetics Facility (MBNF) to test for social and repetitive behaviors. Transgenic males and XMO TS females will be tested, as these groups show elevated Xlr3b expression, worse social cognition, and worse reversal learning compared to wild type females. Lastly, as Xlr3b expression is higher in neonates compared to adults, performing RNA-seq on brains from P0 and adult mice will help identify genes with which Xlr3 interacts or for which Xlr3 may affect regulation respectively.

Linguistics

Emma Nguyen

Current Research:

The goal of my current research is to leverage P600 satiation to test syntactic theories. My previous research has shown that satiation does not occur when there are multiple violations that are categorically distinct from each other at both a grammatical and sentence processing level. The next step is to test violations that are distinct at a grammatical level, but are similar at the level of sentence processing (both first-pass dynamics and reanalysis). By holding sentence processing properties constant, we can ask how similar violations must be at a grammatical level to induce satiation.

In the next set of experiments, I will systematically manipulate the syntactic similarity of the violations, while holding sentence processing properties as constant as possible. For example, the first experiment will compare two violations that differ at a very fine-grained syntactic level, but share many sentence processing properties (both are island violations, both are embedded questions, both occur at clause boundaries, both involve wh-items, etc.)

(1) Wh-island: *What do you wonder [who read]?
(2) Weather-island: *What do you wonder [whether Mary read]?

In future experiments, we will test violations that differ more substantially at a syntactic level (such as whether islands versus complex noun-phrase islands), until we fully characterize the level of similarity that satiation requires. We can then compare the resulting patterns to specific claims in syntactic theories.

Psychology

Emily Peters

Current Research:

My research is interdisciplinary in nature, in that it combines methods in order to answer questions in the fields of neurobiology of language, cognitive science, behavioral neuroscience, and translational clinical research. In addition, findings can translate across research and clinical domains.

My current research at UConn explores the relationship between language processing, social cognition, and social functioning outcomes in schizophrenia. I am investigating the hypothesis that social cognitive deficits develop through a neurologically-based language processing impairment, and that deficits in social cognition lead to social withdrawal and impairment in schizophrenia. My master's thesis project combines a TMS-EEG paradigm with neuropsychological testing to explore both the neurological bases of language processing and functional outcomes associated with impairments. Participants are recruited from a local Intensive Outpatient Program.

This project aims to demonstrate that social functioning and social cognitive deficits in schizophrenia are related to impairments in language processing. If language processing impairments in the brain are related to functional outcomes, then it will be important to examine the relatedness of these symptoms through the development of schizophrenia. In addition, a better understanding of impairments in sz may offer new ideas for future interventions, such as targeting language processing as a method of improving social functioning.

 
 

Rainer

Communication
 

Adam Rainear

Current Research:

Most of my current research has examined how humans interact with new communication technologies when risks are communicated through these tools. Our early research indicates that when being provided a risk message, robotic platforms may cause individuals to retain less information and may be no more or less effective than traditional media platforms. Our most recent robot data collection led to a brief presentation at the American Meteorological Society Conference, and a top paper award at the National Communication Association. In the coming months, we plan to further explore the measured variables to understand how involvement, credibility judgements, or feelings of mediated presence may influence outcomes and behavior (among others). Moving forward, I hope to continue to connect both physical and social science by exploring the relationships between using new technology to communicate and understanding how these platforms may influence individual information processing and decision-making. My experience in last summer’s IBACS workshop was the most useful experience of my graduate career, having taken an idea in my head and turning it into an external grant proposal in only 4 months. While the first proposal was not funded, the agency offered me an opportunity to revise the submission, and there are hopes of utilizing this smaller developmental money to springboard the idea into a larger future grant.

 

Psychology
 

Elizabeth Simmons

Current Research:

I am currently engaged in several studies; below are the ones most germane to the IBACS mission.

Project 1: Hyperlexia. With Drs. Magnuson (Cognitive Psychology), Eigsti (Clinical Psychology), and Grigorenko (Baylor College of Medicine, Genetics) we are evaluating the neural correlates of reading ability in typically developing children and those with ASD with and without hyperlexia (precocious decoding ability). We hypothesize that unusual patterns of cognitive and social development in ASD result, in part, from atypical connectivity between brain areas supporting various functions and reward circuitry. This study uses a combination of neurophysiological methods (fMRI), behavioral methods (eye tracking, clinical assessment) along with collection of genetic information to better understand this complex disorder.

Project 2: The development of fine-grained spoken word recognition. I plan to downward extend my master’s thesis work evaluating spoken word recognition in preschool children to a younger group (infants and toddlers). This will likely require a faculty member from developmental psychology (potentially Drs. Sheya or Suanda) and child language expert (Dr. Rhea Paul, Sacred Heart University, Speech-Language Pathology) in order to ensure our tasks are appropriate for infants and toddlers. We will also begin to investigate how very young children learn words that compete, phonologically and semantically, using an artificial lexicon task and eye tracking.

Psychology
 

Charles Wasserman

Current Research:

Currently, I have just completed an EEG study looking a beat-perception in complex rhythms (this will be my Masters thesis work). This work uses 32 channel EEG (and additional EMG) along with behavioral tasks in order to look at behavioral and electrophysiological responses to complex musical rhythms. It is possible to create a rhythm with no spectral energy at the pulse frequency by manipulating the number of events that occur anti-phase (180°) versus in-phase (0°) with the basic rhythmic cycle. Dynamical analysis predicts neural oscillation will emerge at such a “missing” pulse frequency. The current experiment utilized four different rhythms of varying complexity (1 simple, 2 complex, and 1 random). Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) of the Hilbert envelope showed energy at the repetition frequency (2Hz) for the simple rhythm, but no spectral energy at the missing pulse frequency (2Hz) for the complex rhythms. EEG responses to these stimuli were recorded to look for the neural oscillations and power modulations at the missing pulse frequency predicted by dynamical analysis. We have found evidence of a 2Hz response in the EEG to missing pulse rhythms. These data support the theory that rhythmic synchrony occurs as the result of an emergent population oscillation that entrains at this particular frequency.

Psychology
 

Emily Wyckoff

Current Research:

I am developing manuscripts for my thesis and research previously presented at conferences and am on target to submit several manuscripts within the next six months on topics related to accuracy of self-reported weight, the home environment (i.e. chaos and foods in the home), weight suppression as a predictor of weight loss treatment outcomes, and qualitative research on diabetes management. Additionally, as a graduate research assistant at Yale University, in addition to clinical treatment and assessment of patients with Binge Eating Disorder (BED), I am collaborating with Dr. Carlos Grillo (Psychiatry) and colleagues on a manuscript examining clinical characteristics of patients with BED. I am also currently a graduate assistant for a NIH funded weight loss maintenance trial (PI Tricia Leahey, Allied Health Sciences) and am spearheading development of intervention content for an online weight loss program. With my advisor (Amy Gorin), I am working to obtain seed funding to add measures to the weight loss maintenance trial which would further examine the influence of executive functioning and the home environment on weight loss maintenance and allow us to test Temporal Self-Regulation Theory in the context of weight loss maintenance. The proposed research below builds on research proposals for which I received the APAGS/ Psi Chi Junior Scientist Fellowship, the Christine N. Witzel Award, and honorable mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Psychology
 

Xiao Yang

Current Research:

Currently, I am working on applying graph theory on resting state MRI data analysis. Specifically, I am utilizing hierarchical clustering algorithm (average linkage method) for resting MRI data analysis to study the functional connectivity changes in reading network and language network in aphasia patients after treatment. Extending upon my machine learning project, I am also using a machine learning algorithm called multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) to identify brain regions that can be used as a biomarker to differentiate optimal and less effective speech treatment.

Psychology
 

Emily Yearling

Current Research:

Goal directed behavior requires us to interact with our environment in a way that is concurrent with our internal states and motivations and flexible to environmental changes.While we might have a clear goal in mind, there is not always a clear path to it.The path is in flux as the environment and our own internal states vary.We propose that the spatial-temporal dynamics of the task, not just the logic or goal, influences the development of the cognitive system.To show this, we designed a video game like task to manipulate spatial-temporal dynamics of typical cognitive control tasks for young children.We will submit an IRB and BIRC seed grant by the end of the semester.The grant will enable us to obtain a neural characterization of the developmental changes in cognitive control due to the spatial and temporal dynamics of tasks. Based on our goals, we are attuned to specific aspects of individual objects and the categorical characteristics of the object. We propose that tracking the histories of objects allows us to direct our behavior to achieve a goal.To observe the effect of interaction and language on object perception, we have a video game like task appropriate for 2 to 6 year olds that requires one to track the individual histories of identical objects.The key manipulations are the are how object is labeled and how the participant interacts with the object. This allows us to observe changes in how language and the action system track object histories across development.

2017 Summer Graduate Fellows

 
 
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Physiology & Neurobiology
 

Alexandria Battison

Research Interests:

My research fits into IBaCS mission as it is inherently interdisciplinary; combining neuroscience experimental methods with mathematical and computer programming analysis methods. I was fortunate during my undergraduate career to have an interdisciplinary background, and my goal for my graduate work is to continue to bring engineering and physics into my neuroscience dissertation research. Most of my analysis work is taken from biomedical engineering and math and is applied to analyzing cortical firing patterns. I hope to push my research forward and continue to optimize my experimental methods in a way that will pull from physics and engineering.

 
 
CT IBACS art

Physiology & Neurobiology
 

Mary Baumgartner

Research Interests:

At its core, my research is focused on understanding the molecular regulatory programs underlying normal cortical development and cortical function. As a result, my research project is intrinsically interdisciplinary, spanning the fields of molecular biology, developmental biology, neuroscience, and behavioral sciences, and initiating extensive collaborations both within and between departments is necessary to answer the questions at the heart of my project. In addition to the broad range of approaches I am employing, a key resource at my disposal is a conditional knockout mouse line, in which I can target a minor spliceosome component for removal in specific tissues. Using this mouse line, I can separately parse out how minor splicing informs cortical development, and how this altered development impacts cortical function, and how minor splicing regulates the function of mature neurons. Subsequent use of comprehensive behavioral testing paradigms can then be used to elucidate whether the functions of specific cortical regions/circuits, such as those underlying attention and motor activity, are differentially sensitive to shifts in minor splicing-controlled gene expression.

 
 
Pietro-Cerrone
Linguistics

 

Pietro Cerrone

Research Interests:

I conceive my interests in theoretical and experimental Morphology and its interfaces as a part of Cognitive Science. My ultimate goal is to contribute to the understanding of the language faculty and its processing, which requires interdisciplinary work, in particular, with cognitive psychologists and speech perception scientists, and, in general, with scholars whose research deals with how the human brain represents and processes language. I am currently involved in an speech perception and production project with Andrea Calabrese whose goal is to understand how English monolinguals categorize speech sounds of Polish and how they produce them.

 
 
Contreras-2

Psychology
 

Jessicas Contreras

Research Interests:

Jessica is a deaf 1st year doctoral student in developmental psychology. She is interested in neurodiversity and how american sign language contribute to cognitive devopment. She is interesting in how language experience shape cognitive systems such as executive function and number development.

 
 

Ashley

Psychology
 

Ashley Dhaim

Research Interests:

My research is focused on how action in a social context promotes the creation of a social coordination between individuals. I'm interested in how these dynamics change with experience and development between the ages of 3 and 10 years old and what implications they have on the development of higher level social cognition.

 
 

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BioMedical Engineering & Physiology and Neurobiology
 

Akie Fujita

Research Interests:

My project is directed at characterizing the functional properties of a population of inhibitory neurons in the lateral hypothalamic area. These neurons have been implicated in the control of arousal, reward and feeding but their cellular and circuit-level properties are poorly understood.  Using a combination of electrophysiology, neuroanatomy, optogenetics and behavioral techniques, I will take a multidisciplinary approach to uncovering their electrical and neuromodulatory signatures, anatomical projections and role in homeostatic behavior.

 
 

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Linguistics
 

Ryosuke Hattori

Research Interests:

This project uses the Intermodal Preferential Looking task on English-learning children, to seek a support for the “parametric” hypothesis, where positive setting of certain abstract parameters is considered to be prerequisite for two or more related constructions. It is my interest to find out if children’s comprehension level on these related constructions correlates with each other.

 
 

Lu Li photo

Mechanical Engineering
 

Lu Li

Research Interests:

We propose a 3D spatially heterogeneous neural tissue model of cortical motor neuron disease by co-culturing cortical and spinal motor neurons. We develop a bioprinting approach to precisely assemble neuron encapsulating gel blocks into 3D complex co-culture environment, which will offer an innovative system to study the role of target-derived signal on the development of cortical motor neurons in 3D and develop a better understanding of pathogenic mechanisms and identifying therapeutic targets for cortical motor neuron diseases. 

 
 

Andre (1)

Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences
 

Andre Lindsey

Research Interests:

My research is aimed at determining how language interacts with other domains of cognition and to determine how neurological injury affects that interaction. Consistent with the mission IBACS, the goal is a more comprehensive understanding of neurological functioning.

 
 
Maurici2
Psychology

Maurici Lopez-Felip

Research Interests:

My research project focuses on how the context in team sports influences the behavior of actors at both individual and collective-levels. The goals of  this project are 1) to develop a model of multi-agent coordination and 2) to use this model to make testable predictions about player performance as it relates to perception-action and cognitive processes.  In a more advanced stage of the project, we will assess the the model's ability to predict catastrophic events (e.g., injuries, collisions, etc.). 

 
 
Jin Lu
Computer Science and Engineering

Jin Lu

Research Interests:

Schizophrenia and many other mental disorders are associated with impairment of working memory. Recent studies have identified a limited number of regions among which the brain network connectivity modulates working memory. However, other possible regions remain lack of thorough investigation. To build a valid memory model rather than merely correlation analysis, we plan to develop a machine learning approach to analyze brain network connectivity in individuals under different states (rest, n-back) by integrative modeling of fMRI images, EEG signals and cognitive survey variables.

 
 
headshot (1)
Psychology

Monica Ly

Research Interests:

My current and proposed research would bridge clinical psychology and neuroscience, two fields that would gain tremendously from interaction rather than separation. By conducting this translational research, I hope to help set the groundwork for future research using simultaneous EEG-fMRI in topics that were previously limited by the incomplete neural picture provided by a single technique alone. The direct results of this work will help researchers select the system appropriate to their design and goals. The proposed research could incorporate aspects of bioengineering, cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, and clinical psychology. I hope to collaborate with faculty in both the clinical and behavioral neuroscience divisions as well as BIRC faculty to integrate their perspectives to evaluate the scope and use of innovative neuroimaging technologies.

 
 

shireena (1)

Psychology
 

Shireena McGee

Research Interests:

I aim to expand my research across traditional interdisciplinary sciences, incorporating research in learning, dynamical systems, education and the brain. I believe these fields are pertinently in-orthogonal in my line of work and must be mutually informative in order to find success in any one endeavor. Innovations in education are hidden in developmental psychology and neuroscience and it is my goal to work towards nurturing these interdisciplinary connections in order to make an impact on the way that the world receives and communicates information in diverse learning contexts.

Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

Ashley Parker

Research Interests:

This project will examine concept formation in children with specific language impairment. The purpose of the study is to examine the dependency of language on the development of concept formation in children. Concept organization is critical in order to understand and identify the things we encounter in the world, and two examples of such organizational structure are taxonomic and thematic categories. The hypothesis is that if concept formation is dependent on language abilities, then we would expect children with SLI to be at a less mature stage of concept formation due to their deficit in language. Our research seeks to find if a shift to a taxonomic preference occurs in children with language impairment, as it does in typically developing school-aged children. If significant differences are found, this study will help us to explain children with language impairment’s delay in language acquisition.

 

perrino (1)

Psychological Sciences

Peter Perrino

Research Interests:

An individual inherits many fundamental processes that form complex cognitive systems that are required for the development of language. It is believed that genetics play a pivotal role in the acquisition and retention of language and disruptions in genetic mechanisms have shown to cause language impairments, as seen in dyslexia and autism. We aim to target specific genes that have been implicated in language disorders and assess the behavioral and neuroanatomical consequences of manipulating the protein products associated with the genes via the use of transgenic mouse models. We can assess these models on various intermediate language phenotypes such as auditory processing and working memory. Following behavioral testing, we can investigate various neural substrates that may be underlying any anomalies observed, to further understand the gene-brain-behavior relationship. With the help of IBACS, the completion of our work will provide valuable insight to our understanding of the biological substrates of atypical language development. Future applications of data could allow for the development of early screening tools to identify at risk individuals as well as more targeted interventions using these genetic and anatomical markers.

 

Rob_Petrosino

Linguistics

Roberto Petrosino

Research Interests:

My current work is looking at ERP response to marked/non-marked and linguistic/non-linguistic sounds. Markedness is a broad concept that encodes how much frequent and complex a cognitive object is. As dealing with such a broad dimension, this project will provide new evidence on the role of markedness in encoding and analyzing sounds, and may ultimately be of broad interest to cognitive scientists working on speech perception across domains.

 
 

Rainer

Communication
 

Adam Rainear

Research Interests:

My proposed research will focus on the factors which would promote safe and proper evacuation behavior in times of weather risks and crises. Using virtual reality, I hope to gain an understanding of what might enhance or impede safe evacuation, examine how new communication tools might influence risk messsage perception, and understand how individuals are processing and considering weather warnings under times of duress.

 

 
 

jenelle

Philosophy
 

Jenelle Salisbury

Research Interests:

My research is centered around the issue of “the unity of consciousness” in philosophy of mind. The current project aims to explore what the neuroscience of information integration in the semantic representation network can bring to bear on this topic. In particular, I am interested in the neural mechanisms underlying information integration (questions such as whether integration requires a hub). This is relevant to explaining the kind of unity required for joint accessibility, and I also aim to explore its relevance to the kind of unity required for joint phenomenology.

 

 
 
CT IBACS art
Psychology

Vivi Tecoulesco

Research Interests:

In my research I am using ABRs to measure subcortical responses to and I am also using behavioral measures to map the language learning process. Letty Naigles in Developmental Psychology is my advisor; the goal of our research is to address how children with ASD learn language. She encouraged me to incorporate neural structure and function into my work. To that end I have been working with Erika Skoe to add ABR to my toolbox.
I am really interested in trying to bridge so called lower level subcortical processing with higher level, representational levels of language. In my opinion this is in line with the mission of IBACS. Additionally, as a trainee in the NBL program I am demonstrating my commitment to interdisciplinary work. Affiliating with IBACS with increase my opportunities to find projects to both join and/or initiate that strive to incorporate multiple perspectives as I believe our understanding of the brain and cognitive functioning is extremely more likely in this collaborative environment.
I plan to help the community by being open for collaboration, willingness to discuss my work and that of others, and hopefully doing good science that reflects well on the community.

 

 
 
troha
Psychology

Ryan Troha

Research Interests:

The Connecticut Institute for Brain and Cognitive Sciences places a lot of focus on research integrating different scientific disciplines. I will accomplish this by combining social behavior research with electrophysiology and neurophysiology. Observational learning has been seen in humans, but lacks a behavioral paradigm that can measure this phenomenon in other animals. I am working towards developing such a paradigm which will then allow further investigation into the electrophysiological and neurobiological components underlying this important form of learning.

Given this great opportunity, I will work my hardest to fulfill the Institute’s goals. This means not only working to expand my personal research expertise but to also teach those around me, cross disciplinary boundaries, and promote the Institute’s research activities. I am excited to make the most of this opportunity granted to me by the Institute and take advantage of any chance to learn from others, teach others, and to build the research environment here at the University of Connecticut!

 
 
Wei (2)
Psychology

Yi Wei

Research Interests:

I'm interested in auditory perception and processing in clinical population, particularly people with aphasia. I'm also interested in how auditory perception and processing can be used to help this population in their progress of recovery by innovate/modify/individualize current music therapy techniques.

 

2016 Summer Graduate Fellows

Linda_Boshans
Physiology & Neurobiology

Linda Boshans

Research Interests:

My research focuses on the neurogenic fate potential of NG2 cells, a type of glial progenitor cell. NG2 cells share a close lineage with interneurons, and through forced expression of a pro-interneuronal transcription factor, NG2 cells can be reprogrammed into neurons. Specifically, I am interested in the genetic and molecular changes that occur to produce the fate switch of NG2 cells into GABAergic neurons.

 
 
brooks
Psychology

Thomas Brooks

Research Interests:

I am interested in the interplay between perception, action, and cognition, particularly with regards to how sensory information creates experience. I like to take classical experimental phenomena (such as bistable perception of the Necker cube) and reconceptualize them as action-driven processes. Currently I'm studying how grasping a cube shaped object in different ways can affect which orientation of Necker cube is seen by a person.

 
 
Iris_Chin
Psychology

Iris Chin

Research Interests:

My research interest is in language acquisition in typically developing children and children with autism spectrum disorder. I focus on four aspects of language acquisition: how do children come to acquire morphosyntax (in terms of its form and its meaning), what types of biases do children have when learning the syntax of their language, how does the acquisition of language impact other areas of cognition (i.e., theory of mind), and how do children learn about the pragmatic use of language.

 
 
Amanda_Coletti
Physiology & Neurobiology

Amanda Coletti

Research Interests:

My research focuses on characterization of stem cell niches in the developing brain. Specifically, I am examining fate decisions of stem cells that promote neurogenesis, ependymogenesis or regeneration, in the case of injury or disease. I am particularly interested in how hydrocephalus affects brain development.

 
 
Charles_Davis
Psychology

Charles Davis

Research Interests:

How is meaning represented in the brain? I am interested in semantic representation in language, and the neural circuits that support these representations. My current work is investigating the representation of abstract concepts, looking at the interaction of semantic and episodic memory in the processing of abstract concepts, and the role of the hippocampus in this relation. I am also interested in the distributed representation of semantic memory across sensorimotor areas of the brain (the extent to which sensory, perceptual, and motor areas are involved in processing language), and how these ideas map onto language creation and, from an evolutionary perspective, non-human communication.

 
 
Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

Julia Drouin

Research Interests:

I'm interested in speech perception and how listeners map from speech to meaning. That is how is the listener able to take information from the acoustic speech signal and map it onto higher linguistic units, especially given that the acoustic signal is rich in variability. I use behavioral paradigms, electrophysiology, and neuroimaging techniques to examine these questions.

 
 
Zac_Ekves
Psychology

Zak Ekves

Research Interests:

Semantic and episodic memory integration during sentence processing, Event processing and representation, Neural correlates of event processing and semantic/episodic memory integration.

 
 
Katelyn_Gettens
Psychology

Katelyn Gettens

Research Interests:

My research interests lie at the intersection of health psychology, neuropsychology, and neurophysiology. My work focuses on the neuropsychological and neurophysiological underpinnings of health behavior change. My current work examines the relationship between executive functions (verbal fluency, mental flexibility, inhibition, planning, etc.) and weight control among adult populations with overweight and obesity using behavioral, task-based neuropsychological assessment batteries.

 
 
CT IBACS art
Psychology

Roman Goz

Research Interests:

Epileptic spectrum disorders affects millions of people around the world. Related genetic malfunction has been found only for a very small part of those epileptic disorders.Epilepsy might also follow traumatic injury. The changes in electrophysiological properties of neuronal tissue that makes it hyper-excitable, creating a synchronous firing either in a small brain area, or that spreads to multiple brain areas, are still enigma. I'm interested in discovering the answer to that. Understanding what neuronal circuit initiate this synchronous activity, whether there is an origin in a specific cell type is the current goal.

 
 
henry_harrison
Psychology

Henry Harrison

Research Interests:

Visually guided action; behavioral dynamics; action-selection; self-organization; sports science.

 
 
Molecular & Cellular Biology

Kavitha Kannan

Research Interests:

I am interested in studying the molecular mechanisms behind neurodegenerative disease progression using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. My current research uses genetic tools available in Drosophila combined with cellular and molecular biology approaches to identify novel genetic modifiers that play key roles in in human neurodegenerative diseases.

 
 
martin_lang
Anthropology

Martin Lang

Research Interests:

My primary interest is ritual and effects of its various components on human behavior. I study effects of music on inter-personal coordination, synchronous movement, decision-making and social bonding. My other research line is focused on understanding the role that ritualized motor sequences might play in alleviating anxiety. I use physiological measurements, motion capture, machine-learning algorithms, and linear and nonlinear data analysis (recurrence quantification analysis).

 
 
Tommy_Lee
Psychology

Tommy Lee

Research Interests:

Tommy Lee is interested in the mechanisms underlying learning and memory in the dorsal and ventral regions of the hippocampus. His research is interdisciplinary—integrating behavior, neuropharmacology, electrophysiology, and computational neuroscience. After completing his Ph.D. and a postdoctoral fellowship, Tommy Lee aspires to be a professor of neuroscience at a research I university to continue his research and teaching.

 
Natasza_marrouch 
Psychology

Natasza Marrouch

Research Interests:

My primary research focuses on the processing of unpredictability. Building on interdisciplinary postulates from information theory, probability theory, and neurological findings, I explore the role of unpredictability in the formation and persistence of belief systems. To this end I apply a combination of experimental methods, computational modeling, and multilevel analysis of open-source socioeconomic, Geo-spatial data, and individual level data.

 
 
Gabriel_Martinez-Vera
Linguistics

Gabriel Martinez-Vera

Research Interests:

Semantics, Morphosyntax, Syntax-Semantics Interface

 
 
Timothy_Michaels
Psychology

Timothy Michaels

Research Interests:

My research utilizes translational and interdisciplinary methods to examine the neural basis of perceptual and cognitive deficits that underlie serious mental illness. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how attention and working memory impairments relate to psychosis and contribute to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

 
 
Glenn_Milton
Molecular & Cellular Biology

Glenn Milton

Research Interests:

We are interested in X chromosome evolution in respect to disease, particularly Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As an epigenetics lab, we are interested in the epigenetic environment and the role it plays in gene regulation on the X chromosome. We aim to define the chromatin architecture of an X-linked imprinting control region in mice and to define expression and regulation of an ASD candidate gene in human brain tissue.

 
 
Yanina_Prystauka
Psychology

Yanina Prystauka

Research Interests:

Are brain regions recruited for processing object state changes sensitive to the number of dimensions on which the change occurs? What is the effect of processing identical syntactic structures with different levels of semantic complexity on the working memory load? Do native and L2 speakers have similar mechanisms of morphosyntactic processing? I use converging evidence from psycholinguistics and syntax to study sentence processing and its neural correlates.

 
 
Russell_Richie
Psychology

Russell Ritchie

Research Interests:

My interests include cognitive science most broadly, language more specifically, and most specifically, language dynamics (processing, acquisition, emergence in communities, historical change, evolution in our species). I mostly investigate these dynamics in the lexicon and in prosody, using behavioral and neurophysiological experiments, corpus analysis, and computational modeling. I also maintain interests in data science and natural language processing.

 

Photo of Brenda Rourke

Communication

Brenda Rourke

Research Interests:

My research is broadly focused on information processing in mediated environments for atypical populations. I am specifically interested in cognitive processing differences in mediated learning for individuals with high functioning autism and attention deficit disorders. My work draws from research in education, psychology, communication, telecommunication, engineering, and cognitive science.

 
 
kayleigh_ryherd
Psychology

Kayleigh Ryherd

Research Interests:

I am interested in how an individual’s semantic representations and knowledge about concepts affect their reading comprehension ability. Specifically, I’m interested in poor comprehenders, people who show a specific impairment in language comprehension without problems in word decoding or other more general cognitive processes. I use behavioral and neuroimaging methodologies to try to understand the specific comprehension deficit in this population.

 
 
Garrett_Smith
Psychology

Garrett Smith

Research Interests:

Sentence processing, particularly the effects meaning has on syntactic form; Nonlinear dynamics and self-organization in language and cognition; Computational modeling.