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Department of Psychological Sciences

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Research Facilities and Resources

Research Facilities

  • Laboratory Facilities. All faculty have individual laboratory space on campus. Most of the behavioral research with nonclinical adult human subjects is conducted in laboratory suites in Wilson Hall or in the Hobbs Lab. These laboratories include computer stimulus presentation and response collection capabilities, a vast array of computers for data analysis and computational modeling, and specialized research equipment (including several eyetracking systems, optics benches, acoustical analysis systems, acoustically dampened testing environments, and various kinds of custom experimental hardware and electronics). Research with special populations is conducted in laboratories at Wilson Hall and at other laboratories in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Hobbs Lab, and at the Medical Center. Research using functional brain imaging is conducted in the Institute for Imaging Science, a short walk from Wilson, Jesup, and Hobbs. Research using Near Infrared Spectroscopy and Positron Emission Tomography is conducted in specialized laboratory space in the Medical Center. Research with animals is conducted in a secure facility on the ground floor of Wilson Hall which includes animal housing quarters, laboratories with extensive computer, physiological monitoring, and stimulus presentation equipment, and an aseptic surgical suite. All laboratories are located on the main Vanderbilt campus, the Peabody campus at Vanderbilt, and the Vanderbilt Medical Center and all are within ten minutes walking distance of one another.
  • Clinical Facilities. Research makes use of clinical services through the Medical Center. The Adult Psychiatry Clinic is a treatment research clinic operating within the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The Clinic serves as a primary treatment and referral site for patients. Clinical staff includes psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, research assistants, and secretarial staff adequate to conduct a number of ongoing clinical trials and other research projects. Access to individuals with developmental disabilities is made possible through the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Recruitment of special populations can be facilitated by resources available through the Medical Center and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.
  • Animal Research Facilities. Wilson Hall contains an AAALAC-accredited animal care facility with dedicated and experienced staff who have received various degrees of AALAS certification. Facilities and support for husbandry, enrichment, and surgery are ideal for species used by program faculty. In particular, an open room for a colony of macaque monkeys was developed that has provided enrichment. The facility has a staff of four, and is funded jointly by the VVRC Core grant and by the College of Arts and Science through the Department of Psychology. Vanderbilt University veterinarians make frequent rounds and are on call around the clock.
  • Electronics and Machine Shop. Electronic and machine shop services are available on campus for fabrication and repair of laboratory equipment (click here for information). Faculty and trainees have access to the fee-based services provided by these shops.
  • Graphic Artist Facilities. Some faculty and trainees have access to a graphic artist supported by CICN and the VVRC that provides services for production of journal illustrations, photographic slides, poster presentations, and other specialized needs. PC and Mac computers run a wide range of illustration and photoediting software and access dye-sublimation, color inject and laser printers, slide film recorders, and slide and flat-bed scanners. The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center also offers a graphic arts facility to its investigators and their trainees.

Research Support Resources

  • Human Subject Pool. Faculty and their trainees have access to a well-maintained human subject pool.
  • Recruitment of Specialized Populations. Recruitment of special populations can be facilitated by resources available through the Medical Center and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.
  • Staff Support. Secretarial resources are available to faculty within the program and its affiliated centers for coordinating seminars, organizing travel arrangements, and assisting with other research and teaching responsibilities. In addition, faculty and their trainees have access to the services of computer support personnel within the Psychological Sciences departments, its affiliated centers, and at the university computing center (Information Technology Services).

Research Equipment

  • Computers. Individual faculty use different types of computers in their laboratories. Macintosh and PC computers are plentiful in the individuals laboratories for experimental testing and data analysis. Most program faculty supply their trainees with personal office computers. Most laboratories also have Intel, SGI, or Alpha Linux/Unix workstations for complex data analysis or for computational modeling. In addition to standard word processing and data analysis packages, individual laboratories also have specialized software for image editing, 3D rendering, mathematical modeling, neural network simulations, acoustic analysis, customized statistical analyses, and structural and functional brain imaging analyses. Computer support is provided by a full-time computer systems analyst supported by CICN and the Department of Psychology; additional hardware and software support is provided by staff by the university computing center (Information Technology Services). Laboratories have multiple connections to the university high-speed 100/1000 Ethernet network, allowing rapid internal and external communication to print servers, local file servers, web servers, file transfer servers, file archive servers, e-mail servers, the VAMPIRE computer cluster, and the Web.
  • High Performance Computing. Complex computational modeling, monte carol simulations, and data analysis can make use of Vanderbilt's Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education. Their high performance computing cluster employs massively parallel processing to reduce drastically the time required to crunch large amounts of data and perform complex modeling.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Brain imaging experiments (MR, fMRI, diffusion tensor imaging) can be carried out on a Philips Intera Achieva 3T scanner with single-shot, echo planar imaging capability for fMRI. The scanner is supported by the VUIIS. This scanner offers a high performance gradient set with strengths up to 80 mT/m, and slew-rates up to 200T/m/s. The Philips architecture includes 16 fully digital receivers, allowing for the use of parallel imaging techniques such as SENSE, which in turn will reduce image distortions in EPI images. Both a standard quadrature head coil, and an eight-channel SENSE head coil will be available. The scanner is housed in a specially constructed laboratory devoted exclusively to MRI and fMRI research. The 3T scanner is operated as a research facility, not as a clinical facility. The university has placed an order for a Philips 7T research-only full-body scanner, which will have significant commonalities with the 3T scanner, such that scanning sequences developed on the 3T can and will be easily transferred to the 7T. The research scanner is supervised by John Gore, with oversight by an advisory committee responsible for assuring equal access to all funded investigators at Vanderbilt. The ancillary equipment for generating and presenting visual stimuli include: Macintosh and Dell PCs, running Psyscope, Matlab with the Psychological Presentation Toolbox, E-Prime, or home-grown programs, all of which can be triggered by the scanner for precise timing, and which are used for stimulus generation, as well as subject response collection and timing.
  • For video presentation, an inside-the-scanner-room XGA Avotec projector, Epson DLP projector or a pair of XGA-compatible high-resolution goggles for video stimulus presentation can be used, depending on the experimenter’s preference, along with headphones for audio stimulus presentation and a microphone, as well as an infrared eye tracker. Some image analysis is performed using the image processing facilities associated with the VUIIS (a linux cluster of dual processor workstations each with 3.5GB RAM, along with a server with 1.2TB of data storage, as well as various Sun and SGI workstations), CICN (SGI workstations), the VVRC (SUN workstations), and various laboratory computer workstations. Many of these computers are devoted exclusively to analysis of fMRI data which are transferred by high-speed network from the scanning facility. A variety of fMRI analysis software packages (including Brain Voyager, SPM99, SPM2, AFNI, Stimulate), are available for use, along with more generic programming languages (MATLAB, IDL, Fortran, C, C++) for more individual analysis.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET). PET studies can be carried out on a GE Advance PET scanner (Milwaukee WI) with spatial resolution of approximately 4-5 mm full-width at half maximum (FWHM) near the center of the field of view. Dedicated onsite cyclotron currently produces F-18 labeled isotopes and is currently being upgraded to include a C-11 target to allow production of C-11 labeled radioligands.
  • Near Infrared Spectroscopy. The optical monitoring device is a Hitachi (ETG-100) Diffuse Optical Tomography System (DOTS). Fiber optics deliver laser light from the instrument to the subject, additional fibers are used to collect light that has diffused through the head and deliver it to photo-detectors in the instrument. The fiber optics enable flexible positioning of the emitters and collectors on the subject, as well as providing electrical isolation. As the detectors are standard photo-diodes, there is no high voltage associated with the instrument. Lasers at 780 nm and 830 nm are used. The power delivered to the subject, at the distal end of the fiber optic cable is less and 4 mW per square millimeter defined by ANSI.
  • Transmagnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS studies can be conducted using the Super Rapid System (Magstim, South West Wales, UK). This state-of-the-art rapid rate pulse device produces magnetic pulses that can be used to safely and effectively stimulate cortical tissue. Pulse frequency range is on the order of 1-50 Hz. The 70mm stimulation coil can be used to map speech, motor, visual, and memory brain function and can also be used in neuropsychiatry studies through both single and multiple pulse trains. The spatial accuracy of the system is verified through the use of a frameless stereotaxy system (Rogue Research, Quebec, CA) that allows the user to guide the coil over the desired brain position in space using the subject's MR images as a guide.