The following students have been awarded IBACS Brain Research Assistantships in Neuroimaging (IBRAiN)
The IBRAiN program allows Graduate Students to be trained on MRI and related imaging methods and the assistants will support users of the Brain Imaging and Research Center (BIRC) facilities. This could involve helping design and implement experimental procedures for fMRI, EEG, tDCS, TMS etc., recruitment and prepping of participants, data analysis, or overseeing use of equipment by others. Click here for more information about this program.
Wesley Leong, Research Software Engineer Fellow
I work on how we process events through language. I’m currently working on two related questions: (1) How do we represent time in events? (2) How do we dynamically build representations of the world as language unfolds? To understand these processes in the mind and brain, I use a combination of behavioral tasks and neuroimaging.
- Code review: I can be a second set of eyes on your code! You don’t even need to be having a problem – I’ve found it helpful to walk through working code with someone to make sure it’s doing what I want.
- Experiment design: I can be a sounding board for you to bounce ideas off of when designing your experiment. In particular, I can help look for any technical challenges you might face in implementing it.
- Experiment setup: Once you’ve got your experiment script, I can help you set up with the experiment equipment at BIRC and any troubleshooting you might have.
Kelly Mahaffy, MRI Operator Fellow
My research focuses on reading comprehension and, particularly, better understanding the neurobiology and neurochemistry that underlie fluent reading comprehension. I am especially interested in trying to link brain structure, function, and behavior as well as exploring a potential role for the Default Mode Network in reading comprehension. Prior to joining the lab, I earned a MA in Literature with an emphasis on Cognitive Literary Theory, a BA in English and Linguistics with minors in Cognitive Science, Child Studies, and History, and was a k-12 teacher. I am at my happiest when working with children doing neuroimaging such as MRI. At the BIRC, I help with MRI scanning and other kinds of neuroimaging, especially neuroimaging with children and those with developmental and cognitive disabilities and impairments.
Hannah Mechtenberg, User Support Fellow
I study how the brain balances ambiguity in the signal and prediction during spoken language processing. My questions vary from how processing effort changes based on low-level acoustic details to what types of linguistic signals the cerebellum is sensitive to. I use a combination of methods—behavioral, fMRI, TMS, pupillometry—to investigate these questions. To complement my academic work, I also dedicate time towards science outreach, science communication, and finding ways to prioritize participant experience during research.
The brain activates and represents meaning in complex ways. At a cognitive level, we deal with meaning using concepts which help to guide action and predict outcomes over a wide range of contexts. My research uses fMRI to examine the functional and structural connectivity underlying concept networks, representationally and as they develop in learning, as well as electrophysiology to examine activation dynamics.
I am interested in the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying spoken word recognition, particularly regarding how top-down (e.g., attention, context) and bottom-up (e.g., speech signal, noise) information interact to determine speech perception. I would like to utilize simultaneous fMRI and EEG to tap into the feedback and feedforward mechanisms in speech. I’m experienced with collecting and analyzing fMRI data with various experimental designs and analysis approaches (e.g., ANOVA, functional connectivity, correlation analysis, ROI, DTI). I’m honored to be part of the IBRAIN training program to advance my neuroimaging skills and to assist IBACS in providing the technical, intellectual, and educational support to the UConn research community.
My research interests are in improving neuroimaging analysis methods to allow for more in-depth research, and using neuroimaging techniques to explore the basis and treatment of psychological disorders, mood and anxiety disorders in particular.
Areas of Advanced Expertise:
My research interests focus on the interaction of phenomena traditionally categorized as perception, cognition, and action.
My research utilizes a variety of neuroimaging methods, including fMRI, resting state connectivity (rsfMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), to examine the neural correlates of perceptual abnormalities and cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the neurodevelopmental mechanisms by which pathophysiology in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex confer increased risk for psychosis during adolescence/early adulthood. Through such approaches, my research aims to identify promising new targets for disease prevention and treatment.
Using neuroimaging techniques and fMRI methods, I am interested in studying mathematical problem-solving from a neurocognitive perspective. I am primarily interested in developing expert models of brain activation of problem-solving as well as developing ways to translate this research into effective pedagogical practices.
My overall goal is to take ‘Language’ as a whole and study it from the perspectives of Philosophy of Language (and Mind), Linguistics, and Cognitive Science. My current research is focused on the neural activity of encoding and decoding contextual representations. How does one pick out the right/intended representation? How can one figure out (and/or pick) the right referents of ‘Hank’ and ‘Mary,’ among the many Hanks and Marys that they know, when they hear ‘Hank said that he loves Mary’? From the other side’s perspective, how can one think about the right ‘Hank’ and ‘Mary,’ among the many Hanks and Marys that they know, as they utter ‘Hank said that he loves Mary’?
My research looks at how episodic and semantic memory systems interact during sentence comprehension. Specifically, I am interested in the neural underpinnings of representing object tokens in their different states. The use of simultaneous EEG + fMRI recording will allow me to track the time course of instantiating, maintaining and retrieving the representations of object token-states as the sentence unfolds, as well as identify neural pathways supporting the above mentioned processes.
I primarily study poor comprehenders, individuals who have poor reading comprehension despite intact decoding ability. In the past, I've used fMRI to determine that poor comprehenders show atypical activation across modalities and processing levels. My current research interest involves using fMRI to determine what may be contributing to the deficit in concept and category learning that I've observed in this population.
My research to date has focused on the cognitive processes underlying both substance and behavioral addictions. I have designed multiple Approach-Avoidance Tasks to examine automatic approach biases for different addictive stimuli, which contribute to the maintenance of addictive behaviors. I am interested in developing cognitive bias modification interventions to restructure maladaptive cognitive processes, and in turn, reduce real-life, problematic behaviors.
Reading is a complex cognitive function for which the brain is not congenitally wired, yet reading disabilities have a probable genetic causation. I am interested in using cutting edge techniques to integrate multimodal neuroimaging data to better study the relationship between genetics and reading (dis)abilities as mediated by the brain.
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.
My research focuses on how our memories, actions, and our cognitive system mutually influence our behavior, goals, and understanding of the world in the moment and across time. Successful goal directed action requires us to individuate objects we interact with and track them through time. What we remember about the objects and how we interact with them in the present moment could be shaped by our memory from previous experiences and our goals - both of which are constantly in flux as our environment and our internal states change. At different points in development, we may rely on different neural mechanisms to track objects because we have different access to perceptual information, needs, and experiences. My research uses fMRI to investigate how these different memories, goals, and perceptions facilitate structural changes in the cognitive system that manifest as differential patterns of task-dependent and resting state functional connectivity.
My research focuses on identifying the cerebellar mechanisms of essential tremor, one of the most prevalent movement disorders in the world, through computational modeling. Along this line of research, I am now exploring alternative targets of deep brain stimulation for essential tremor, and my eventual goal is to develop effective noninvasive neurostimulation protocols, such as tDCS and TMS, to treat the disease.