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News and Events


Welcome Anita Disney!

October 2, 2014—The Department of Psychological Sciences would like to welcome our newest faculty member. here is a news piece on her work.

Click here.

Congratulations, Pooja!

September 30, 2014—Pooja Balaram, a graduate student in Jon Kaas' lab, has won the 2014 Krieg Cortical Scholar Prize awarded by the Cajal Club Foundation to a junior neuroscientist who has conducted exemplary research on the cerebral cortex and/or its connections.

Congratulations to Vanderbilt all-University Undergraduate Research Fair award winners!

September 23, 2014—"We would like to extend a hearty congratulations to our undergraduate students who made award winning presentations in Vanderbilt’s recent Undergraduate Research Fair.” From A&S Psychology First Place Julia Zhu ’15 – Psychology “Improving Error Monitoring in Schizophrenia Through Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation” Advisor: Dr. Sohee Park, Psychology In a tie for Second PlaceSydney Waitz-Kudia ’15 – Psychology and English “Media Influence on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury” Advisor: Dr. David Cole, Psychology & Human Development From Peabody Psychology First Place Meghan Collins ’15 – Neuroscience & Cognitive Studies “Decoding the deficit: across-task analysis of memory impairments in schizophrenia” Dr. Sean Polyn, Psychology In a tie for Second Place Junyi Chu ’15 – Child Development & Cognitive Studies “The Role of Phonological Awareness and Inhibition in Reading” Dr. Bethany Rittle-Johnson, Psychology & Human Development

Maier receives Society of Neuroscience Career Award. Congratulations Alex!

September 3, 2014—Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexander Maier has been selected to receive the Society for Neuroscience's Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award for 2014. The purpose of the award, which is given to only two individuals each year, is "to recognize individuals who have demonstrated originality and creativity in research and to promote success during academic transitions prior to tenure." Maier was recognized for his efforts to understand the basic mystery of how perception arises from neural activities. A prime focus of his research program is to differentiate between the neural circuitry that is involved in visual perception and sensory activity that does not attain the level of conscious awareness. His work has important implications for treating patients with visual disorders characterized by an inability to perceive or recognize certain types of visual images. He is also one of a handful of scientists studying the relationship between the electrical activity in the brain and the variations in blood flow that are measured by the brain mapping technique fMRI, the most commonly used and most reliable method for measuring neural responses in the human brain- Recipients receive a $2,000 award and complimentary registration to the society's annual meeting.

Braden Purcell wins honorable mention for James McKeen Cattell Award

August 15, 2014—Braden's PhD dissertation, Neural Mechanisms of Perceptual Decision Making, has been chosen to receive honorable mention in the 2013-2014 James McKeen Cattell Dissertation competition sponsored by the Psychology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences. The field was highly competitive, with many excellent candidates for the award. His work was highly regarded by the reviewers and by the Steering Committee. The Academy further commended the work of his mentors, Thomas Palmeri and Jeffrey Schall, and the graduate program in Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. In recognition of his noteworthy achievement, he will receive a certificate from the New York Academy of Sciences; his mentors will be similarly recognized. Congratulations Braden!

Elizabeth Dykens' research featured in the Times!

July 30, 2014—Dr. Elizabeth Dykens' research on reducing distress among caregivers of developmentally delayed children has been featured in the New York Times. Dr. Dykens and colleagues conducted a randomized trial published in Pediatrics comparing effects of mindfulness training and positive psychology practice on mothers' stress, depression, and anxiety. More about the study can be found here and the Times article "When the Caregivers Need Healing" can be found here . Congratulations Dr. Dykens!

Congratulations NSF Awardee and Honorable Mentions!

April 24, 2014—Congratulations to NSF awardee Sarah Wiesen, who works with Dr. Amy Needham! Congratulations to our NSF Honorable Mentions: Sofia Jimenez, who works with Dr. Meg Saylor; Megan Ichinose, who works with Dr. Sohee Park; and Josh McCluey, who works with Dr. Sean Polyn!



October 23, 2014 – Cancelled - Neuroscience Seminar: Francesca Rocchi

Francesca Rocchi, Department of Hearing & Speech (Ramachandran Lab), Vanderbilt University

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 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 IC and the cochlear nucleus (CN) to better understand the mechanisms underlying sound detection in complex natural environments.






October 24, 2014 – Cognitive and Neural Modeling Meeting

Jim Kragel, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program (Polyn Lab), Vanderbilt University

Friday, 10/24/14

12:00 p.m.

Wilson Hall 519

Jim will be talking about his work using a computational model of memory search to interpret the functional properties of neuroimaging data.


October 28, 2014 – Clinical Science Brown Bag Series: Megan Ichinose

Megan Ichinose, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University

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

Reframing verbal memory deficits in schizophrenia: An issue of cognitive dysconnectivity?

One hypothesis explaining core symptoms associated with schizophrenia is that of neural ‘dysconnectivity’, which describes abnormal connectivity between distinct brain regions. While this hypothesis has arisen from and continues to be supported by a number of functional and structural neuroimaging studies, few have examined how dysconnectivity might manifest behaviorally through cognitive task performance. In the current talk I will discuss a study assessing chronic schizophrenia patients’ performance across a number of tasks tapping verbal memory – an established core domain of impairment in schizophrenia. We specifically examine how verbal working memory, long-term memory and semantic memory ability relate to each other in patient versus healthy populations. This approach allows us to explore patterns of cross-task performance within and between groups. Results provide a behavioral perspective on underlying neural dysconnectivity in schizophrenia. 



October 29, 2014 – CCN Brown Bag Series: Taihei Ninomiya

The Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN) program presents Taihei Ninomiya, Department of Psychology (Schall Lab), Vanderbilt University

12:10 p.m. Room 115 Wilson Hall

Contrasting circuitry in frontal and occipital cortex


Is the cerebral cortex one organ or many?  In spite of obvious variation in appearance of different areas of cerebral cortex, is just one basic circuit used throughout?

Our laboratory has been investigating this question by comparing features of an agranular frontal area, SEF, to features of the most granular area of all, V1.

I will provide overview of the CCM and its proposed implications (Blue Brain, etc.)

I will summarize work done to date in SEF with laminar recording

I will report new findings using CF-PAC as an assay of cortical laminar circuitry.


October 30, 2014 – Neuroscience Seminar: Ben Tamber-Rosenau

Ben Tamber-Rosenau, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University

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

Title and abstract TBA

November 3, 2014 – Quantitative Methods Colloquium Series

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.