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Quantitative Methods Colloquium Series: Joe Rodgers
November 3, 2014

Using Graphs to Tell Research Stories, from Many Different Perspectives

Joe Rodgers, Quantitative Methods, Vanderbilt Dept. of Psychology & Human Development

Abstract: An effective graph can be used to tell a story about the world, a graphical model of some real-world phenomenon. But there are lots of different kinds of stories. I present a taxonomy of graphs in relation to the kind of stories they tell, and illustrate with a number of prototypes.

Clinical Science Brown Bag Series: Tricia Thornton-Wells
November 4, 2014

Tricia Thornton-Wells, Genetics Department, Vanderbilt School of Medicine

12:10 p.m. Room 316, Wilson Hall

"Neuro-Imaging Genetics: Better Biomarkers + Better Modelling = Better Science"


The principal challenge in the field of human neurogenetics research hinges on the presence of heterogeneity—both clinical heterogeneity and genetic heterogeneity.  In my laboratory’s research on disorders of cognitive impairment, we are interested in understanding how genetic factors modulate the biophysiological response to early disease-related changes in brain, and we have aimed to address this principal challenge by (1) investigating highly-penetrant genetic models of more common, complex disorders; (2) using brain-based biomarkers from neuroimaging or biomolecular analytics; and (3) by explicitly testing for the presence of gene-gene and gene-environment interactions.  I will provide an overview and several examples of the biomarker & statistical genetics research we have conducted on Alzheimer's disease using our local cohort of individuals with Down syndrome and the publicly-accessible Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database. 








CCN Brown Bag Series: Hyunyoung Park
November 5, 2014

Hyunyoung Park, Department of Psychology (Woodman Lab) Vanderbilt University

Wednesday, 11/5/2014

12:10 p.m.

Wilson Hall 115

Electrical stimulation can modulate selective attentional mechanism

 The event-related potential (ERP) provides a high temporal resolution neural measure of cognitive processing. However, the source of the ERP is not clear because of its relatively poor spatial resolution. To address this issue, recent work has used comparative ERP/single unit studies where neurophysiological recordings in specific regions of the brain are correlated with the scalp-recorded EEG signal. Previous single-unit recording studies suggested that a specific ERP component indexing selective attention, the N2pc, is at least partially generated by the frontal eye field (FEF). In my talk, I will present a series of experiments designed to directly test this proposal using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to casually stimulate human FEF and then recording ERPs as subjects performed a simple visual search task.



Neuroscience Seminar: Seweryn Olkowicz
November 6, 2014

Seweryn Olkowicz, Department of Zoology, Charles University, Praha, Czech Republic

12:10 p.m. Room 316, Wilson Hall

Compact brain architecture and the neuronal basis for intelligence in birds

Seweryn Olkowicz, Martin Kocourek, Radek Lucan, Michal Portes, Suzana Herculano-Houzel and Pavel Nemec

 Many birds show remarkable cognitive abilities that can rival those observed in apes, people’s closest relatives. With brains the size of only a fraction of that observed in large primates it remains uncertain how birds can accomplish this level of behavioral sophistication. Using the method of isotropic fractionator we investigated neuron and nonneuronal cell numbers in brains of parrots and passerine birds, two avian orders with the most intelligent representatives. We show that in these birds total brain neuron numbers scale approximately linearly with brain size, i.e., the average neuron size shows little increase and neuronal density decreases minimally as brains get larger. In passerines and parrots neuronal densities in the telencephalon always exceed those observed in the cerebral cortex of primates by a factor of 2-8. As a result, the numbers of telencephalic neurons in the brains of the largest of examined birds (raven, kea and macaw) equal or exceed those observed in the cerebral cortex of medium-sized monkeys. The avian cerebellum features neuronal densities similar or higher to those found in primates. In contrast to the latter, however, in birds the relative size of cerebellum decreses with brain size, therefore cerebellar neurons make a smaller proportion of total brain neurons the larger the bird’s brain. With increasing neuronal proportion contained in the telencephalon, in the macaw brain almost 80% of all brain neurons is contained in cerebral hemispheres, while only 20% populates the cerebellum, a condition reversed to what is found in mammals. Finally, for all examined brain structures, the densities of nonneuronal cells remain constant regardless of brain size, a finding congruent with data from mammals. Our results strongly suggest that high neuronal numbers and hence high brain's computational capacity underpin the behavioral and cognitive complexity reported for parrots and passerine birds.

Psychological Sciences Colloquium Series presents Stephen B. Manuck
November 6, 2014

Stephen B. Manuck, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh,

The 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

4:10 p.m.
Location: 204 Mayborn 

Hearts and Minds: Bio behavioral Sources of Cardiovascular Risk

Much health-related research in psychology addresses behavioral influences on the development, prevention, and management of diseases of the heart and vasculature.  This is not surprising, as heart disease and stroke remain the foremost sources of mortality in industrialized nations.  These diseases are partly predicted from common biological risk factors like elevated blood pressure, dyslipidemia and insulin resistance, and by health-impairing behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity, thus informing current public health efforts directed at disease prevention.  We now know that a variety of other behavioral and social environmental factors also contribute to cardiovascular risk, including socioeconomic inequalities, social isolation, work-related stressors, and affective traits and disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and angry or hostile temperament.  Yet we are only beginning to understand how these largely psychological factors become embedded in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease, or as it is commonly phrased, “get under the skin.”  In this talk I will summarize work on two bio behavioral mechanisms that may mediate psychosocial influences on atherosclerosis, the pathologic process underlying susceptibility to heart attack and the most common form of stroke. The first of these, referred to as the “reactivity hypothesis,” posits individual differences in the magnitude of cardiovascular reactions evoked by common psychological stressors.  Such reactivity is stable over time, substantially heritable, and elevated in persons behaviorally predisposed to coronary heart disease.  That a heightened cardiovascular reactivity also conduces to atherosclerosis is supported in an experimental model of atherogenesis and by a variety of patient and population-based epidemiological studies of preclinical vascular disease. The second mechanistic hypothesis I will discuss has potential relevance for the cardiovascular health of women.  Comparative research documents mild disruptions of cyclic ovarian function among female macaques of subordinate, relative to dominant, social rank and shows these reproductive deficits to mediate status-dependent variation in atherosclerosis.  Building on these observations, J.R. Kaplan and I propose that the premenopausal protection against heart disease that women ordinarily experience is not invariant, but tracks with the quality of women’s premenopausal ovarian function.  In addition, and like low social rank in monkeys, adverse life circumstances or other psychological challenges may disrupt women’s ovarian function along a gradient of severity and with varying chronicity over the reproductive lifespan. We refer to the more rapid acquisition of preclinical atherosclerosis predicted of women suffering extended ovarian deficits, compared to women of uncompromised ovarian function, as the “precocious acceleration” of premenopausal cardiovascular risk.  This acceleration of risk may, in turn, presage an earlier onset of clinical disease, like heart attack, even though such events may still generally occur after the age of menopause.


Clinical Science Brown Bag Series: Chandra Y. Osborn
November 11, 2014

Chandra Y. Osborn, Ph.D., MPH,   Assistant Professor of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Tuesday, 11/11/14

12:10 p.m.

Wilson Hall 316

Title & Abstract TBA

CCN Brown Bag Series: Katie Ryan
November 12, 2014

 The Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN) program presents Katie Ryan,  Department of Psychology (Gauthier Lab)Vanderbilt University

12:10 p.m. Room 115 Wilson Hall

Title and abstract TBA

Neuroscience Seminar: Francesca Rocchi
November 13, 2014

Francesca Rocchi Ph.D., Department of Hearing & Speech Sciences (Ramachandran Lab), Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

12:10 p.m. Room 316, Wilson Hall

Noise Characteristics Affect Tone Detection in Non-Human Primates

Detection of signals within acoustic scenes always requires the auditory system to accurately encode sound levels in noisy backgrounds. However, the relationship between the properties of the noise presented and the detectability of sounds is not entirely understood. Natural acoustic environments are characterized by regularities that can be expressed in terms of spatio-temporal information and statistical properties, which might affect sound encoding mechanisms. Here we investigated how spatial and temporal characteristics of complex sound scenes lead to tone masking and how noise statistics affect tone detectability. A psychophysical (Go/No-Go) task was presented to non-human primates (Macaca mulatta and Macaca radiata). Monkeys were required to detect tones in noise when the magnitude of separation between these two signals was manipulated in time (tone and noise were gradually separated by a temporal gap) and in space (tone and noise were played from set apart locations). In a different experiment the statistical properties of the noisy background were varied. Noise amplitudes were randomly sampled from a set of probability distributions (similar to those designed by Dean et al., 2005) characterized by a high probability region of sound levels. Results clearly showed that the masking effect gradually decreases as a function of the separation between signal and noise in both temporal and spatial domains. Moreover, the statistics characterizing sound scenes dramatically affect detection accuracy. Indeed, tone thresholds increased as the center of the high probability region of noise shifted towards higher noise levels. These results form the basis of future neurophysiological studies in both the inferior colliculus  (IC) and the cochlear nucleus (CN) to better understand the mechanisms underlying sound detection in complex natural environments.


Clinical Science Brown Bag Series: Andy Tomarken
November 18, 2014

Andy Tomarken, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University

12:10 p.m. Room 316, Wilson Hall

Title and abstract TBA

CCN Brown Bag Series (No Talk This week)
November 19, 2014

The Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN) program - noweek due to SFN, Psychonomics conference talk scheduled this

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