Dr. Doris Bitler Davis works with undergraduate and graduate students on issues related to animal learning and cognition. One area of focus involves understanding animal communication systems and their evolutionary relationship to human language. Subjects include domesticated species such as goats (Capra hircus), chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus), and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). A related interest is in more clearly identifying, describing, and mitigating cognitive dysfunction syndrome in companion animals. Other lines of research include: 1) the pedagogy of psychology (the empirical evaluation of methods for improving student learning and retention), 2) food choices and eating behavior in humans and animals, and 3) anomalistic psychology (the study of extraordinary beliefs, behaviors, and experiences).
Dr. Brielmaier Sontag is able to serve as an MA thesis or dissertation committee member for CBN students whose research has a behavioral neuroscience focus. She is also involved with research on online teaching and learning. Current studies are investigating the role of course design in student motivation and performance, and student engagement in an online vs. face-to-face physiological psychology course.
Dr. Flinn’s research focuses on the role of metals in both behavior and physiology. Her research has emphasized the roles of zinc, copper and iron in learning and memory and also in macular degeneration. Her research currently focuses on two specific aspects of metals in behavior, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the extinction of learned fears. Her lab is developing genetically modified mice which model late onset Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of the disease. In Alzheimer’s mice, increased zinc causes an impairment in memory, which may be due to decreased copper. Current studies are examining memory, affiliative behaviors and circadian rhythms and the role of inflammation and zinc transporters in AD mice. The work on extinction has shown that increased levels of zinc, which may act through reducing copper levels, lead to an inability to extinguish a learned fear normally, a possible factor in PTSD.
My work examines two vital components of human cognition: social perception; and how we understand our physical world through the representation of time and space – roughly categorized, people and time/space. My goal is to uncover the neural mechanisms that underlie our understanding of our social and physical worlds using the tools of social and cognitive neuroscience, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), source-localized electroencephalography (EEG), and more recently, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).
How does the brain perceive time and space? Philosophers may debate the nature of each, but my lab aims to empirically study how the brain constructs these dimensions. To do this, my lab uses a variety of different tools in the armamentarium of Cognitive Neuroscience: functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Electroencephalography (EEG), and Psychophysics. Additionally, my lab focuses on combining different techniques, such as simultaneous TMS-EEG or fMRI-EEG, to enhance their power and the repertoire of questions that can be asked.
Specifically, we are interested in how our sensory systems construct a unified perception of time and space, such that our world perceptually appears to seamlessly "flow" from one moment to the next. A particular emphasis in my research is on the perception of rhythm and music, as well as spatial navigation. For the former, we are interested in whether the brain is guided by an internal rhythm or "beat" which paces our perceptions and actions. For the latter, we are interested in how our expectations modify our interactions with the environment. Our work investigates both healthy human subjects and those suffering from different pathologies, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, and disorders (Schizophrenia, Parkinson's Disease).