Tag Archive for Neuroscience and Behavior

Loui Co-Authors Article on Human Creativity and the Brain

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, co-authored a new article published in the December 2017 issue of Brain and Cognition.

The paper is titled, “Jazz Musicians Reveal Role of Expectancy in Human Creativity.” Loui and her colleagues found that within one second of hearing an unexpected chord, there is a world of differences in brain responses between classical and jazz musicians.

Robinson Writes About the Real Reason Some People Become Addicted to Drugs

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Writing in The ConversationAssistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson looks to the brain to explain the real reason that some people become addicted to drugs.

Robinson, who also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, begins by debunking two popular explanations for drug addiction: that compulsive drug use is simply a “bad habit,” and that overcoming the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is too hard for some addicts.

While pleasure, habits and withdrawal can play a role in drug use, Robinson says, the true reason for addiction can be explained by the psychological differences between “wanting” and “liking.”

Loui Co-Authors Article on Lack of Pleasure from Music

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, is the author of a new publication on musical anhedonia—the lack of pleasure from music. Together with others in her lab, Loui studied an individual with musical anhedonia and compared his brain against a group of controls. They found that his auditory cortex was differently connected to his reward system, a finding which gives further support for the role of brain connectivity in the musical experience.

The article, titled, “White Matter Correlates of Musical Anhedonia: Implications for Evolution of Music,” was published Sept. 25 in Frontiers in Psychology.  It was coauthored by Sean Patterson, BA ’17, MA ’18; Tima Zeng ’17; and Emily Przysinka, former lab manager in Loui’s lab.

Loui, Guetta ’17 Author Paper on Brain Connections Between Sound, Taste

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui and Rachel Guetta ’17 are the authors of a new paper exploring how people form associations between sound and taste. The article, titled, “When Music is Salty: The Crossmodal Associations Between Sound and Taste,” was published March 29 in the journal PLoS One.

Scientists know that music can be evaluated as sweet, sour, salty or bitter, depending on features in its composition such as pitch, articulation, or brightness. For example, higher pitches are often thought of as sweet or sour, and lower pitches associated with bitterness.

While previous research has studied this general area, Loui and Guetta implemented four experiments to explore if, and to what extent, humans form associations between complex sounds and complex tastes, and what mechanisms might underlie these associations. One experiment, conducted with 50 Wesleyan undergraduates, involved making matches between recordings of an original violin composition and four different flavors of custom-made chocolate ganache. Whereas past studies have used simpler auditory and gustatory stimuli (such as isolated pitches, or basic taste samples of flavored beverage solutions), “both violin music and chocolate ganache are categories of complex stimuli that enable fine-grained perceptual discrimination,” the researchers explain.

Loui and Guetta write, “Our findings suggest that perhaps everyone, to some extent, has the capacity to form mappings between auditory and gustatory modalities.” They found that individuals with musical training were no more accurate in their sound-taste associations.

The findings also support the idea that the pleasantness associated with each auditory and gustatory stimulus is a mediating factor in creating these sound-taste associations. That is, individual participants were likely to associate those music clips they found most pleasant with those chocolate samples that they enjoyed the most.

These findings may have applications for “food businesses and restaurant entrepreneurs in marketing products and optimizing consumer experience, capitalizing on emotional congruency between sound and taste.” For example, cafes might choose certain music to enhance their coffee flavors, and the taste of beer might be affected by music being played at the bar.

Loui also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences.

 

 

Bodznick Co-Authors Book on Cerebellar Sense of Self

bodznickIn human beings, the cerebellum occupies only 10 percent of the brain volume, yet has approximately 69 billion neurons; that is 80 percent of the nerve cells in the brain.

In the book Evolution of the Cerebellar Sense of Self, published by Oxford University Press in January, co-authors David Bodznick and John Montgomery use an evolutionary perspective to explain cerebellar research to a wide audience. Bodznick is professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior at Wesleyan, and Montgomery is professor of biology and marine science at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The cerebellum first arose in jawed vertebrates such as sharks, and early vertebrates also have an additional cerebellum-like structure in the hindbrain. Shark cerebellum-like structures function as so-called adaptive filters to discriminate ‘self’ from ‘other’ in sensory inputs.

According to Bodznick, “it is likely that the true cerebellum evolved from these cerebellum-like precursors, and that their adaptive filter functionality was adopted for motor control; paving the way for the athleticism and movement finesse that we see in all swimming, running, climbing and flying vertebrates,” he said.

This book will be of interest to neuroscientists, neurologists and psychologists, in addition to computer scientists, and engineers concerned with machine/human interactions and robotics.

Sanislow’s Research on Psychiatric Diagnosis Published in 2 Journals

Charles Sanislow

Charles Sanislow

Charles Sanislow, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the author of two papers in leading journals for psychiatry and psychology on his work with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). The RDoC is a framework to drive translational research to improve psychiatric diagnosis and develop new and better treatments.

In the October issue of World Psychiatry, Sanislow reports on ongoing RDoC work, including the consideration of adding the domain “Motor Systems” to the RDoC. Early this month, Sanislow participated in a workshop at NIMH to review the evidence for research constructs having to do with disruptions of movement related to psychopathology.

In the November issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Sanislow argues for the need to research connections between internal mechanisms and core dimensions of human suffering and dysfunction. In Sanislow’s lab at Wesleyan, students learn methods to study alterations in cognitive and neural processes, and ways to clarify how such alterations relate to clinical symptoms. Sanislow began work on the RDoC when it started in 2009, and he continues to serve as member of the NIMH Internal Working Group for the project.

Naegele Co-Authors New Paper in Nature Communications

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and development, is the co-author of a new paper titled, “Convulsive seizures from experimental focal cortical dysplasia occur independently of cell misplacement.” It was published in Nature Communications on June 1.

Brain malformations called focal cortical dysplasia are typically formed during human embryonic cortical development and are a common cause of drug-resistant epilepsy and cognitive impairments. One of the causes of cortical dysplasia is improper migration of developing cortical neurons. Failure to reach their correct destinations in the cerebral cortex and dysregulated growth leads to the formation of growths or tubers in regions of cerebral cortex. These abnormal growths don’t wire up properly with other cortical neurons and exhibit seizure activity. In this multi-lab collaborative study, the researchers show in mice with experimentally-generated cortical malformations that there is an increase in growth-associated signaling molecules in experimentally-generated cortical tubers associated with seizures. Blocking this signaling cascade with the molecule rapacycin from early stages can prevent the neuronal misplacement, tuber-like growths, and seizures, but once rapamycin is discontinued, the seizures return. Despite the adverse side-effects of taking rapamycin, these findings suggest that life-long treatment with rapamycin may be required in individuals with focal cortical dysplasia, in order to prevent the re-occurrence of seizures and tubers.

The paper is co-authored with Felicia Harrsch, Naegele’s former lab manager, and researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Barth, Patalano Receive Major Grant from National Science Foundation

Hilary Barth

Hilary Barth

Andrea Patalano

Andrea Patalano

Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, and Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, have received a major grant from the National Science Foundation. The $1,101,456 grant will support collaborative research on quantitative reasoning conducted in the Cognitive Development Lab (directed by Barth) and the Reasoning and Decision Making Lab (directed by Patalano). The research project will be conducted in collaboration with Sara Cordes at Boston College, which will receive an additional $177,496.

According to the NSF abstract, humans have an innate ability to estimate quantities yet their intuitions often contain biases that interfere with learning new ways to think about quantity. Weaving together strands of psychology, neuroscience, economics, and education, the researchers hope to shed light on the cognitive processes underlying our abilities to estimate 4 kinds of quantities: number, space, time, and probability. By comparing processes across these four distinct areas, the researchers aim to provide a unifying account of how children and adults estimate quantities, which has the potential to transform current understanding of the cognitive bases of how people learn in and across STEM disciplines. Achieving a simple unifying account is important because the ability to think well about quantity in all of these areas is fundamental to STEM learning.

Neuroscience Program Holds Undergraduate Research Symposium, Poster Session

The Neuroscience and Behavior (NSB) Program hosted their third annual undergraduate research symposium April 29 in Daniel Family Commons. Senior thesis writers delivered 10-minute scientific presentations during a dinner with fellow NSB students and faculty. Students also showcased their finest scientific projects during a research poster session, pictured below: (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

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Loui Studies How Brain Connectivity Reflects Aesthetic Responses to Music

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui has long been interested in studying the intersection of music and emotions. In her latest study, published March 10 in Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience, she identified specific connections in the brain between the auditory processing regions and regions for social and emotional processing. The article is titled, “Brain connectivity reflects human aesthetic responses to music.”

Loui, who also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, has previously studied how music can cause chills, or similar strong physiological reactions in people when listening to music. Together with former thesis student Matt Sachs, she set out to study what was different in the brains of people who experience these music-induced chills compared to those who don’t.

The researchers started by conducting a large online survey with more than 230 participants. From this group, they selected 10 people who reported frequently experiencing chills from music and 10 people who reported not getting chills. They controlled for musical experience, gender and personality differences. Each participant was asked to bring in a few favorite pieces of music to the lab. Since individuals respond differently to music—that is, music that is chill-inducing varies from person to person—the researchers used music provided by one participant as control stimuli for another participant.

High School Student, Mentored by Wesleyan Neuroscience Program, Finalist for Research Prize

Jan Naegele is one of 19 women faculty in the country to receive a Drexel Fellowship.

Jan Naegele

A high school student from New York, who is mentored by a faculty member and a graduate student in Wesleyan’s Neuroscience and Behavior Program, is one of the top four finalists for the Neuroscience Research Prize, awarded by the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.

As a recipient of the prize, Armonk, N.Y. resident Ryan Infante will receive a $1,000 cash prize and per diem for expenses at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Child Neurology Society in Vancouver, B.C. in October 2016. He will present his stem cell transplantation research during the Child Neurology Society meeting.

Infante, currently a senior at Byram Hills High school in Armonk, N.Y., completed this research last summer while working with Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and graduate student Dan Lawrence, a BA/MA who majored in neuroscience and behavior in 2015.

Infante was initially guided by his high school science teacher to carry out extensive reading and research about neuroscience.

“When he first contacted me, as a sophomore in high school, he had already read 12 journal articles and had written a review paper that he presented to his science class,” Naegele said. “He became fascinated by work on stem cell transplantation to repair the hippocampus in rodent models of epilepsy and he wanted to learn more about the types of neurons that we study, which utilize the neurotransmitter GABA.”

Throughout his junior year of high school, Infante and Naegele corresponded over email and held frequent Skype discussions. And last summer, Naegele welcomed him to Wesleyan to conduct research in her lab. Infante, at that time, had read many papers on a method called CLARITY—a new way to make brains transparent—to allow scientists to peer into the center of the brain.

Infante worked with Naegele and Lawrence to collect a large number of embryonic and postnatal brains from transgenic mice expressing fluorescent proteins that light up developing and migrating GABAergic interneurons in the embryonic brain.

“When Ryan came to my lab, he and Dan made careful observations of the gradual clearing of the tissue and the process of making opaque brains transparent,” Naegele said.

Infante learned how to use a 3-D printer to make special chamber slides to hold the embryonic brains for microscopy.

“This was a clever modification of the protocol and with this modification, Dan and Ryan examined the brains and also modified protocols for doing additional fluorescent stains in the intact brain tissue,” she said.

Over the past 25 years as a faculty member at Wesleyan, Naegle has welcomed 10 high school students for a summer research project. Most of them are still in science–either attending graduate school, medical school or combined programs. Among them is Elizabeth “Lizzie” Paquette ’16, who ended up matriculating to Wesleyan and is currently a triple major in computer science, mathematics and neuroscience.

“I am so impressed by the capacity for high school students to carry out innovative research with our own Wesleyan students and I’m very proud of both Ryan and Dan,” said Naegele.

Infante was admitted early decision to the University of Pennsylvania, and Lawrence is working on his master’s thesis, and plans to apply to medical school next year.

Loui, Jung ’16, Alumni Authors of Article in Frontiers in Psychology

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrated sciences, is the co-author of a new study, “Rhythmic Effects of Syntax Processing in Music and Language” published in Frontiers in Psychology in November. The article’s lead author is Harim Jung ’16, and it is also co-authored by Samuel Sontag ’14 and YeBin “Shiny” Park ’15.

According to Loui, the paper grew out of her Advanced Research Methods in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience course, and is the precursor to Jung’s senior and master’s theses. The study uses a behavioral test to look into how music and language—two universal human functions—may overlap in their use of brain resources. The researchers show that perturbations in rhythm take up sufficient attentional resources to interfere with how people read and understand a sentence. The results support the view that rhythm, music, and language are not limited to their separate processing in the auditory circuits; instead, their structure creates expectations about tempo, harmony, and sentence meaning that interfere with each other in other sensory systems, such as vision, and in higher levels of cognitive processing.

“We think that the role of rhythm in this sharing of brain resources dedicated to music and language is an important finding because it could help people who use music as a therapy to help their language functions,” explained Loui. “For example, people who have aphasia (loss of language) due to stroke are sometimes able to sing, a fascinating paradox that led to the development of Melodic Intonation Therapy—a singing therapy designed to help aphasics recover their language functions. Rhythm is important for this therapy, but its precise role is unclear. By studying how rhythm guides the way the brain shares its processing between music and language, we might be better able to target Melodic Intonation Therapy in the future.”