Attention Development in Children and Adolescents
Studies suggest that while some aspects of attention development such as the ability to orient attention to a new stimulus develop early (Rueda et al., 2004), other aspects of attention appear to develop more slowly. One aspect of attention that appears to develop across childhood is selective attention and the ability to filter out unwanted information. This study is designed to provide insights into the brain mechanisms of selective attention across development and further examine what aspects of selective attention undergo development.

Researcher: Jane Couperus

This study is currently seeking 6-18 year olds and adults. If you would like your child or teen to participate in this research contact Dr. Couperus at

Mindfulness Meditation Practice and Increased Prefrontal Asymmetry
This was a Division III project. This study explores mindfulness meditation and its effects on brain activity. While typically research on meditation examines changes in brain activity, at two distinct time points (before training and after), the timing of changes has not been well explored. In particular mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect attentional processes. Understanding the timing of these effects may lead to a better understanding of the level of practice needed to result in changes as well as a better understanding of the changes themselves. To examine the timing of effects, this study was an EEG case-control study looking for increased prefrontal asymmetry and changes in cortisol levels as a result of consistent mindfulness meditation practice in a single subject as compared to a control group not practicing meditation over an extended period of time (5 months).

Researcher: Brittany Alperin

A Purely Auditory Brain-computer Interface Task Designed to Aid Communication in Blind Patients and Patients with Attenuated Visual Acuity
This was a Division II project. Brain-computer interface generally involves a direct communication pathway between a brain and an external device. In its present manifestation, this connection will be made using EEG readings. A computer program, BCI2000, containing a specific algorithm is synchronized with EEG readings and uses interactive tasks to elicit specific ERPs. The algorithm then uses the information generated by the EEG readings to produce useful feedback. The P300 Speller is a BCI paradigm introduced by Farwell & Donchin in 1988 and is designed to facilitate communication in patients who have become fully paralyzed except for lateral eye movements (as with ALS). This study was designed to explore a purely auditory alternative to the P300 Speller.

Researcher: Jacob Vogel

Conditioning Synaesthesia: can relearning how to count prompt a synaesthetic reaction?
This was a Division II project. The purpose of this experiment is to explore whether some form of synaesthetic association and/or experiences can be gained and detected in an event related potential study.

Researcher: Luis (Ayura) Ramirez

The network properties of conscious experience: 'small worlds' and functional connectivity
This was a Division III project. Consciousness researchers have proposed that "explanatory correlations" may be obtained between brain activity and subjectivity (Seth, 2009). These correlations could take the shape of mathematical relationships between subsets of neuroimaging data sets. For example, functional integration and segregation within brain activity may account for the unity of consciousness and the extremely large number of possible conscious states, respectively (Tononi & Edelman, 2000). Statistical and network measures that reflect these properties in whole-brain activity have been developed, and through these measures recent medical studies have found significant abnormalities in populations suffering from Alzheimer's disease (de Haan et al., 2009) and schizophrenia (Micheloyannis et al., 2006). Few studies have looked for within-subject task effects on these measures, and none have used them to investigate questions of consciousness research. Using synchronization likelihood (Stam, 2002) as a measure of electrode coupling in 64 channel EEGs, we created graph-theoretic networks to look for more explanatory correlates of consciousness.

Researcher: Erik Hoel and Michael Hogan

Evaluating the Mismatch and Motivational Error-Monitoring Theories In Young Adults: An Event-Related Potential Study
This was a Division III project. What is the basis of erroneous responses? The present study explores and discusses two error-monitoring theories: the Mismatch and Motivational, in answering this question. Both a continuous recognition task (CRT) and a Go/No-Go task were used to investigate if the error-related negativity (ERN) would be more robust in tasks with incentives to be more accurate. This was compared to the ERN in a task without incentives.

Researcher: Jessica L. King-Young

Memory and Language Processing in Healthy Adults as a Window into Memory Deficits in Schizophrenia
This was a Division III project. Previous research has suggested that those with Schizophrenia have difficulty with language processing, and specifically with semantic memory. However, it is not clear if these changes are a result of the disorder or were present in its absence. In other words, can language processing and semantic memory be an indicator of maladaptive processing without the presence of a disorder. To explore the link between Schizophrenia and semantic memory and language processing this study looked at a non-clinical sample of adults and determined the level of schizotypal features (or personality characteristics) they express and if there was a relation between these characteristics and language processing.

Researcher: Jesus Colmenares

An ERP Study: The attentional bias of cigaretteaversive stimuli in ex-smokers
This was a Division III project. Attentional biases for cigarette-related and cigarette-aversive stimuli have been found to be a feature of cigarette addiction in current smokers. Although these processing biases do not appear to be permanent, it is unclear when ex-smokers lose the attentional biases toward both types of stimuli which they maintained while they were smokers. This study was designed to develop a better understanding of when this change occurs by using Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) as a way to measure attentional biases for cigarette related and cigarette-aversive stimuli. Findings from this study stuggest that recent ex-smokers who quit within six months, as well as long term ex-smokers, do not show an attentional bias for cigarette-related and cigarette-aversive stimuli in comparison to neutral stimuli, whereas current smokers do.

Researcher: Kristin Iodice

Biochemical Rhythmicity: an ERP Study
This was a Division III project. Does asynchronous stimulation of audiovisual systems affect motorized response patterns? This stimulation can be electrically quantified through event-related potential (ERP) recordings on the cerebral cortex. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter associated with movement disorders (Parkinson's disease, Catatonic schizophrenia, Tourette's, and Huntington's chorea). How does dopaminergic activity affect the electrical activity measured? Does stimulation produce any evidence that may change the art/music assisted physical therapy methodology? These are the questions addressed by this study which explores brain responses to synchronous versus asynchronous visual and auditory stimuli.

Researcher: Evan Ratzan

Divisions of Knowledge: An ERP investigation of Self Reference during Noetic States
This was an independent study project. Human memory has been extensively studied over the past hundred years producing various models of its nature, functions and manifestations. The distinction between episodic and semantic memory has been widely accepted, and can further be characterized by the conscious state of awareness (autonoetic, noetic, anoetic) that accompanies each type. This study investigated autonoetic and noetic states of consciousness observed during episodic and semantic memory, respectively.

Researcher: Candace M. Girard

Nonmotor Evaluation of Cognitive Function
This is a Division III project was designed to test a non-motor method of evaluation of cognitive function for people with physical disabilities that limit behavioral or verbal expression using ERPs.

Researcher: Tara Frady

Theory of Mind
This study focused on theory-of-mind, which is a characteristic deficit of autism, and mirror neurons. By measuring mu frequency (8-13 hz), we hope to find mirror neuron activity in people when they are performing theory-of-mind tasks. If successful, these findings would provide evidence that there may be a connection between theory-of-mind and mirror neurons, and therefore a neurological basis for one of the deficits of autism.(data still being analyzed)

Researcher: Phong Lan Nguyen

ERP Correlates of Meditation's Affect on Anxiety.
This was a Division III project designed to look at the interactions between anxiety and attention in meditators.

Researcher: Doug Roberts-Wolfe

In the last decade, fMRI and other neuroimaging techniques have been utilized in an attempt to inform the neural correlates of decision-making – most of this research appears to have been done within the last four years, and the body of data is growing rapidly. Some of the most recent research uses economic "games" to simulate decision-making in various contexts, and the results point toward an interesting interplay between emotional and cognitive processing systems based on the "fairness" of offers (e.g. Greene et al. 2004). It seems, however, that nothing has been published in which economic decision-making was recorded with ERP. This study recorded ERP data from subjects as they participated in the ultimatum game (UG). In a 2003 fMRI study, Sanfey et al. found that the largest differences in neural activity during the UG are in the anterior insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In all three brain regions, unfair offers of 10% or 20% of the windfall elicited significantly larger activation (as assumed based on increased blood flow) than fair offers of 50% did. This pilot study, based on that of Sanfey et al., sought to further describe the neural correlates of decision-making in the UG, particularly with regard to timecourse.

Researcher: Noah Isserman - Amherst College

Flexing Selective Attention: Electrophysiological Correlates of Shifting between Early and Late Selective Attention
Behavioral and electrophysiological studies suggest that the level of perceptual load can shift attentional selection between early and late stages of visual processing (Lavie et al., 2004, Vogel et al., 2004). However, only behavioral work has shown the ability to move flexibly between early and late selection within a single task. The present investigation extends this work to show flexibility in the locus of selective attention within a single task using electrophysiological methods.

Researcher: Jane Couperus

Perceptual Load: Attention and Learning
Electrophysiological evidence suggests that processing of parafoveal stimuli varies as a function of perceptual demand at fixation as early as 100ms after stimulus presentation (Handy et al., 2001). However, as previous studies have used a block design, it is unclear if these variations are a function of top-down alterations in distribution of attention for an expected level of perceptual load, or carryover effects from processing previously viewed stimuli. This study used event related potentials (ERPs) recorded during a serial reaction time task to examine the role of learning on variations in attention distribution and processing of parafoveal stimuli at P1 via alterations in perceptual load. Findings were presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Meeting in April 2006 and are currently being prepared for publication.

Researcher: Jane Couperus

Prisoners Dilemma - Division III Project
It has long been observed that people are capable of accurately and flexibly interpreting the behavior of those around them. The ability to infer information about the causal mental states of our social partners is central to this everyday act, and it is remarkable that we are able to do this effortlessly based on the information available to us. This study attempts to isolate processes uniquely involved in decision making in social dilemmas. It is hypothesized that social and non-social information is processed and acted upon differently. In the iterated prisoner's dilemma game subjects interpret order of play information to predict future plays of their opponent. Subjects play the iterated PD game in two conditions, one in which they believe they are playing a human opponent and one in which they believe they are playing a computer program. Behavioral and ERP data from this task effectively isolates differences in cognition caused by this perceptual difference. I believe this subtle manipulation is enough to cause activational differences in the broad network of brain regions thought to be involved in this kind of task, supporting previous work on the neural correlates of this task and providing more temporally specific information about this process (Kiesler et al, 1996; Gallagher et al, 2003). Future work in the fields of social cognition and decision making can elaborate on this preliminary investigation, which is designed to provide some precursory information for future ERP investigations of decision making and social cognition.

Researcher: Bronwen Evans

Division III Manuscript

Go With The Flow – Division III Project
The Flow state is a highly salient, euphoric experience seen when one is highly engaged in an activity. It is often correlated with increased creativity, cognitive efficiency and general performance. The Flow State often accompanies peak performance in sports, and thus holds a central position in Sports Psychology. The Bio-Behavioristic Theory of Flow correlates with positive affect and the activation of mesolimbic dopamine pathways, facilitated by the positive prediction error (that is a pleasant surprise) and the rapid selection and switching of cognitive perspective in an engaging task. It was the broad aim of this study to investigate the electrophysiological side of the Flow State as it appeared for four experienced musicians. It was hypothesized that the onset of the Flow State would show distinguishable neurological correlates, which would possibly support the Bio-Behavioristic Theory of Flow. Due to scheduling and time constraints, only marginal results were obtained, but a number of novel research methods relevant to the study of the Flow State were used.

Researcher: Alek Charkoff

Previous studies have shown that lexical knowledge of multiple languages is stored in overlapping areas of the brain. This makes bilinguals’ ability to switch between languages consciously and remain in a single language quite impressive. It was noted by A. M. Proverbio, et al. after their 2003 study, that the left posterotemporal/lateral occipital site is activated when codeswitching occurs. It was also noted by Botvinik, et. al., and Carter et. al., that the anterior cingulate cortex was activated by conflict monitoring (choosing between words in two languages) and error detection or more accurate detection of situations in which errors are more likely to be made. These two areas of the brain appear to be the central control areas for conscious and unconscious bilingual codeswitching. The intention of this experiment was to compare the uses of the ACC and the left postemporal/lateral occipital site in bilingual codeswitching among late bilinguals. The prediction was that they will have overlap of lexical sites and a pronounced use of the ACC to sort between languages and sensical sentences while the posttemporal/lateral lobes would be activated at the N400. Pilot data supported these hypotheses.

Researcher: Gaea Dill-Descoli

Moral Dilemma
People have been putting forth theories about morality for thousands of years. Lawrence Kohlberg was among the first to attempt a scientific measurement of how humans make moral decisions. Subsequent researchers have challenged his assumption that morality is inherently rational. In 2001, Greene et al published an fMRI investigation of moral decision-making. Their results suggested that moral dilemmas arise when an instinctive emotional response conflicts with the logical solution they arrive at. Further study (Greene, Nystrom, Darley & Cohen, 2004) showed that individuals could be identified by their response tendency. Subjects who were more likely to choose the logical, "utilitarian" solution had longer response latencies and greater activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, suggesting an increased "difficulty" in decision-making. Task difficulty is correlated with the amplitude of the P3 component (Palmer, Nasman & Wilson,1994). It seems reasonable that the P3 might also detect the difficulty of other types of decision-making - for instance, moral decision-making. Furthermore, it may also reflect the differences in the way individuals come to their moral decisions. The purpose of this experiment was twofold: first, to determine whether the P3 component can discern between easy and difficult moral decisions, and second, to see if "utilitarian" and "emotional" decisions evoke different P3 amplitudes. Pilot data supported these hypotheses.

Researcher: Shauna Gordon-McKeon

Cross-modal Memory
This study will examine differences in the neural substrates of long-term memory as a function of modality. Participants will learn either visual or auditory stimuli and will perform a recognition memory task with auditory or visual stimuli. Differences in the P300 and sensory compenents will be examined.

Researcher: Carlyn

This experiment is designed to study the P600, a component often found after a participant is presented with a syntactic anomaly. This study will investigae whether the p600 appears after a pragmatic infelicity. A syntactic anomaly is a sentence or phrase that is grammatically incorrect, whereas a pragmatic infelicity is found in sentences or phrases that are redundant, non-sensical, out of context, or otherwise sounds "off" while still being grammatical. The experiment will measure the effects of pragmatic infelicities by presenting to participants sentences with scalar implicatures and other types of sentences that are grammatical but pragmatically infelicitous. The hypothesis is that sentences that are considered incorrect due to pragmatics, even though they are grammatical, will evoke a positive shift around 600 milliseconds when compared to correct sentences.

Researchers: Marie, Kirsten, Bronwen, and Antonius

Project Poster

Music and Rhythm
This study examines the response of the brain to changes in rhythm. Specifically, it will examine the effects of changes in rhythm on the CNV. The auditory system responds differently to sounds that are expected, producing the CNV. This study will examine the development of expectation to changes in rhythm as expressed in changes in electrophysiological responses.

Researchers: Nick, Rel, and Alek

Project Poster

Music and Memory
This study will examine the posibility that music can be a memory aid by priming the neural substrates of memory. Previous research has suggested that music may facilitate memory, however, these studies have been primarily behavioral in nature and the findings are equivical. This study will examine the effects of music on memory retrieval using eletrophysiological measure, specifically examining later ERP components such as the P300.

Researchers: Katie, Mark, and Chris

Project Poster