CFI, NSRIT Funds Help Stfx Researchers Establish Cognitive Neuroscience Research LAB
May 16th, 2016
The lab will be equipped with electroencephalography (EEG) technology, which records the electrical activity of the brain, and will enable faculty to research the biological systems that support how people think.
“Establishing an EEG laboratory at StFX will undoubtedly increase our capacity to conduct cognitive neuroscience research,” says StFX psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan, who along with co-applicants, Dean of Science and psychology professor Dr. Petra Hauf and human kinetics professor Dr. Mel Lam will create the Applied Neuro-Cognitive Research (ANChoR) Laboratory at StFX.
Funding in the amount of $39,791 comes from the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund. NSRIT has approved matching funds.
Dr. Berrigan says she and her colleagues are keen to establish the ANCHoR Lab in J. Bruce Brown Hall.
The new equipment will allow the researchers to move beyond studying only behaviour to measuring associated brain function, as well. The lab will be invaluable in investigating the biological systems involved in a variety of activities such as processing information from the environment to looking at the cognitive processes that support movement and action.
“We currently didn’t have any of that technology available,” Dr. Berrigan says.
“It’s one thing to study how we’re able to think through behavioral responses, but that’s not always completely sensitive to the cognitive processes involved in how people complete a mental task,” Dr. Berrigan says.
For instance, a person with a disease such as multiple sclerosis may achieve the same result on a task, but research has shown the brain is actually working very differently. These differences could have many implications if that person has to continue with that level of brain activity.
“That’s something you’d never be able to see by just recording accuracy on a task,” she says.
“Our research will be able to link the behavioural manifestations of cognitive abilities with the neural networks underlying the abilities.”
The research program will be diverse, reflecting the unique background of each of the team members.
“We are capable of studying cognitive abilities across the lifespan, from infancy to old age, and in individuals affected by developmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases,” Dr. Berrigan says.
Dr. Berrigan investigates how cognitive abilities are influenced by diseases and disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The goals of her research are often applied in nature: to refine methods of identifying cognitive dysfunction, to improve cognitive health, and to, ultimately, improve patients’ quality of life.
Dr. Lam’s research program seeks to answer the question “how does the brain receive, organize, and understand sensory input for action?” Her research explores the cognitive and neural processes that support action prediction and action planning when two or more people perform a task together. She is specifically interested in the process of task co-representation, the ability to form a mental representation of a co-actor’s task.
The research conducted by Dr. Hauf focuses on the impact of motor experience on cognitive functions essential for movement perception, object exploration, and action understanding. While there is increasing evidence showing that the onset of self-locomotion in infants (crawling and walking) coincides with increased cognitive functioning, the involved neural processes are still unknown. Dr. Hauf’s research will combine eyetracking, motion capturing, and EEG to shed light on the link of motor development and cognitive development in infants. Future research will also focus on similar relations in those with decreasing motor skills such as in stroke patients and the elderly.