Tag Archive for Psychology Department

Robinson Lab Awarded Grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences, is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The grant will be awarded over two years, starting on July 1, and will support a study titled “Dissecting Cortical Contributions to Risky Decision-Making.”

Robinson and his research students will use optogenetics in rats to inhibit parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex during the decision-making process.

“The aim would be to see how we make decisions when faced with risk,” Robinson explained. “Are certain areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in tracking the outcomes of previous choices in order to influence future decisions? Or, do they simply promote more or less risky behavior when a choice presents itself?”

The Robinson Lab focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire and risky decision-making. These findings would be relevant to various forms of addiction such as drug abuse and gambling disorders.

Robinson Lab Coauthors Study on Compulsive, Drug Addiction Behaviors

Mike Robinson studies how individuals react differently when presented with a junk food diet.

Mike Robinson

Drug and behavioral addictions like gambling are characterized by an intense and focused pursuit of a single reward above other healthier endeavors. Pursuit of the addictive reward is often compulsively sought despite adverse consequences.

In a newly published study, Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences explored how our decisions can become narrowly focused onto one particular choice. He and his research team used laser light (optogenetics) to activate the central portion of the brain’s amygdala (CeA), an area normally known for its role in generating responses to drug-related and fearful stimuli.

The study, titled “Optogenetic Activation of the Central Amygdala Generates Addiction-like Preference for Reward,” appears in the May 2018 issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience. Robinson Lab members Rebecca Tom ’16, MA ’17, Aarit Ahuja ’16, Hannah Maniates ’16, and current graduate student Charlotte Freeland coauthored the article and participated in the study.

Students Share Research at Psychology Poster Session

Thesis students and research students presented their research on April 26 during the Psychology Research Poster Presentations in Beckham Hall. More than 80 students presented 69 posters at the event. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Thesis students and research students presented their research on April 26 during the Psychology Research Poster Presentations in Beckham Hall. One-hundred-and-ten students presented 69 posters at the event. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Audrey Konow ’20, Jhanelle Thomas ’18, and Gabrielle Vargas ’18 presented “’Do You Fear Being Without Your Smartphone?’ Implications for Sleep and Mental Health among Emerging Adults at University.” Their advisor is Royette Tavernier.

Weissman Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Ruth Striegel Weissman

Ruth Weissman

Ruth Striegel Weissman, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, Emerita, was presented with the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony in Chicago on April 21. The award honors senior AED members for their lifetime of contributions to the field of eating disorders.

In presenting the award, Marsha Marcus, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, spoke of Weissman’s “impressive history of NIH-supported research, [which] has led to findings that have elucidated eating disorders risk, epidemiology, classification, psychopathology, treatment, health care policy, and cost-effectiveness.” This scholarship “has had a major and enduring influence on the field,” Marcus said.

Weissman taught in Wesleyan’s Department of Psychology for nearly three decades, serving twice as chair of the department. She also served the University as vice president for academic affairs and provost.

In addition, Weissman was a member of the Working Group of the Eating Disorders Task Force of the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). She has served on numerous grant review committees and editorial boards. She is a member or fellow of numerous scientific societies, and has served as president of both the Academy for Eating Disorders and the Eating Disorders Research Society (EDRS). According to Marcus, Weissman was essential to the establishment and growth of both organizations, and has been recognized previously for her scholarly and organizational contributions. In 2005, Weissman was given the AED Leadership Award in Research, and in 2008 she gave the James E. Mitchell Lecture at EDRS.

Weissman currently serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the leading scientific journal in the field, and as chair of the Board of Directors of the Livingston HealthCare Foundation.

Houston-Based Artist Herrick ’16 Is Named Luce Scholar

Casey Herrick ’16, a Houston-based artist and designer, was named a Henry Luce Scholar for 2018 and will be moving to Beijing this summer. (Photo courtesy Casey Herrick)

Casey Herrick ’16, a Houston-based artist and designer, was named a Henry Luce Scholar for 2018. One of 18 scholars selected from among 162 candidates, Herrick will begin with an orientation in New York starting in June, before the cohort embarks for Asia. The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to honor his parents, who were missionary educators in China. The Luce Scholars Program was launched in 1974 to “enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.”

Upon his graduation from Wesleyan, Herrick, who majored in studio art and psychology, returned to his hometown of Houston to work as lead 3D-designer, as well as photographer, graphic designer, and video editor at ttweak LLC, an artist-based strategic communications firm. Herrick notes that his work at ttweak has provided the opportunity to work with some of the area’s most prominent institutions, including the Houston Endowment, the Texas Medical Center, the Lawndale Art Center, and the Houston Parks Board. His collaborations focus on helping the organizations communicate dynamically, with maximum effectiveness.

Transitioning out of the design field, Herrick now works as a full-time painter. At Wesleyan, he was deeply involved with Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, serving as a photography lab assistant, a woodshop monitor, and a studio arts teaching assistant. In 2015, he received the university’s Zawisa Grant to photograph the American South, with a focus on regional identity in Louisiana and East Texas. His thesis, Safe Conduct, focused on expectations and traditions associated with gender and the role of society in boys’ coming-of-age. Featuring a 10-by-6 foot canvas, in addition to five other paintings, his thesis work earned him Highest Honors—and New York’s Leslie-Lohman Museum purchased one of the paintings, “The Herndon Climb,” for its permanent collection. He was also awarded the Studio Art Program Award for departmental achievement.

Says Herrick, “I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity. This summer, I’ll be moving to Beijing to work at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and with the city’s art community at large. Right now, I’m frantically trying to learn Mandarin. I know the words for coffee, sandwich, and horse—so I’d say I still have some work to do!”

 

For more information on fellowships and scholarships, please contact Kate Smith, associate director of fellowships, internships and exchanges, at Wesleyan’s Fries Center for Global Studies. Smith says: “Applicants are interested in fellowships and scholarships for a number of reasons; they offer opportunities to continue academic or language study and to pursue research or explore professional interests. The more students engage with their coursework and harness opportunities available at Wesleyan, the more purposeful they can be when considering these programs.”

 

 

Hendel ’85: It’s Not Always Depression Offers Guidance on Emotional Health

Psychotherapist and author Hilary Jacobs Hendel ’85 will be speaking about her new book, It’s Not Always Depression, at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 1. (Photo by Chia Messina)

Hilary Jacobs Hendel ’85, P’18, a licensed psychoanalyst and certified Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) therapist and supervisor, is the author of It’s Not Always Depression (Random House and Penguin UK, 2018). She’ll be speaking at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, at 7 p.m. on March 1, about a psychotherapeutic tool she calls the Change Triangle, a guide to carry people from a place of disconnection back to their true self. It’s a step-by-step process to work with emotions to minimize stress and move toward authentic living. Through moving, persuasive stories of working the Change Triangle with her own patients, Hendel teaches us how to apply these principles to our everyday lives.

In this Q&A, she discusses the book:

Q: Your book is titled “It’s Not Always Depression”—then what is it?

HJH: It’s the effect that adverse life experiences have on us.

Traumas, adversity or just feeling alone or different from others—poor, gay, transgender, from another country, disabled—can overwhelm us and evoke emotions that we can’t process. For instance, if we feel anger about our difficult experiences, but that emotion is too much to bear, we block it and turn it inward, so we feel it as depression or anxiety.

Scheibe Explores “Wisdom of Hamilton,” Psychological Depth, in Talk, New Books

Professor Emeritus Karl Scheibe joins his former students Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Owen Panettieri ’01, both playwrights and alumni of his Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, at a production of Hamilton in New York City. Scheibe will speak on “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Professor of Psychology Emeritus Karl Scheibe recently published two new books, The Storied Nature of Human Life: The Life and Works of Theodore R. Sarbin (co-written with Frank J. Barret), which, he says, “sets the tone” for the second, Deep Drama: Exploring Life as Theater, a collection of recent essays. The latter book’s final piece, “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” recalls Scheibe’s first meeting with Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, his advisee in the autumn of 1998, and then explores the psychological depth and truth within Miranda’s award-winning Broadway musical. Miranda had been a member of Scheibe’s course, A Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, in the spring of his junior year.

Scheibe also presented a talk on “The Wisdom of Hamilton” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14.

In a Q&A, he further discusses the two books in context to each other and his work:

Q: You’ve said that your intellectual formation as a psychologist owes so much to Sarbin and the intellectual positions that he taught you to honor and value. How would you describe this intellectual stance that you owe to Sarbin, your mentor?

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. President Michael Roth publishes op-eds in The Washington Post titled, “We can’t let cynics ruin college,” and “What is college for? (Hint: It’s not just about getting in.).” He also sat for an “On Leadership” interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

2. The Conversation: “The dangerous belief that white people are under attack”

Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins writes about her research on perceptions of reverse discrimination in light of recent societal trends.

3. Marketplace: “Here comes the tax bill marketing”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, is interviewed about the proliferation of advertising campaigns focused on the federal tax reform law after its passage.

4. Hartford Courant: “President Trump Takes Page from P.T. Barnum’s Book”

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history and chair of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, writes about the legacy of circus creator Phineas T. Barnum in connection with the recent release of the film about his life. Tucker is also associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society.

5. Association for Psychological Science: “Playing to Chronotype”

Assistant Professor of Psychology Royette Tavernier is interviewed about her research on the topic of sleep.

Recent Alumni News
1. TheNetworkJournal.com: Majora Carter [’88, Hon. ’13]: Social Entrepreneur

This profile of the founder of Sustainable South Bronx details her newest venture, StartUp Box #SouthBronx, “a tech social enterprise designed to help residents of low-income communities participate in the tech economy.”

2. SFGate.com: 5 Lessons You Can Learn from Uber Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John [’99] [Also: Entrepreneur.com, RealwiseRealestate.com, Uncova]

Saint John offers common sense and inspirational keys that she says have helped her in business and in her personal life.

3. BroadwayWorld.com: Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Will Honor Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02] with Monte Cristo Award! [Also:TheHollywoodTimes.net, CTNow.com]

4. Jewish Journal: Hello, Beanie: Feldstein [’15] Having a Moment With ‘Dolly’ and ‘Lady Bird’

In this profile, Feldstein discusses her roles in two award-winning productions, one on Broadway, one on screen and now in theaters. She tells writer Ryan Torok, “I loved Lady Bird so much because it [drew on] a much more vulnerable side of me than I was asked to bring forward [previously]. I was so nervous and excited to tap into that side of myself, after doing things more strictly comedic.”

5. TalkingBizNews.com: Reuters Names Five Global Industry Editors; including Jonathan Weber ’82

Weber, now based in Singapore, was previously West Coast bureau chief and later named technology editor. Reuters credits him for their “strong coverage of cybersecurity,” which “helped build the U.S. tech team into a competitive force.”

6. BostonGlobe.com: Lisa Chedekel [’82], 57, an Esteemed, Intrepid Journalist [Also: Courant.com]

After Chedekel’s death on Jan. 12, 2018, Vinny Vella of the Hartford Courant wrote of her career: “Chedekel had been a member of a team of Courant reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the deadly shooting rampage at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. . . . ‘Lisa was a fearless reporter and elegant writer,’ said John Ferraro, a Courant editor who worked closely with Chedekel. ‘She searched for truth wherever it led. She was an advocate for the powerless and a thorn in the side of the powerful.’”

 

Juhasz Authors Eye Movement Study on Compound-Word Processing

Barbara Juhasz

An article by Barbara Juhasz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, has been published in the January 2018 edition of the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. The study, titled “Experience with compound words influences their processing: An eye movement investigation with English compound words” appears in Issue 71, pages 103–12.

Recording eye movements, Juhasz explains, provides information on the time-course of word recognition during reading. Eye movements also are informative for examining the processing of morphologically complex words such as compound words.

In this study, Juhasz examined the time-course of lexical and semantic variables during morphological processing. A total of 120 English compound words that varied in familiarity, age-of-acquisition, semantic transparency, lexeme meaning dominance, sensory experience rating and imageability were selected.

The impact of these variables on fixation durations was examined when length, word frequency and lexeme frequencies were controlled in a regression model. Juhasz discovered that the most robust effects were found for familiarity and age-of-acquisition, indicating that a reader’s experience with compound words significantly impacts compound recognition. These results provide insight into semantic processing of morphologically complex words during reading.

In 2003, Juhasz and her former graduate mentor, Professor Keith Rayner, co-authored a related study on “Investigating the effects of a set of intercorrelated variables on eye fixation durations in reading,” published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition. This study examined the impact of five-word recognition variables, however focused on relatively short, morphologically simple words.

Juhasz’s new article is published in a special issue devoted to honoring Rayner, who passed away in 2015. Rayner, the Atkinson Family Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, oversaw an Eyetracking Lab at the university.

“Keith was a very well-respected cognitive scientist who was a pioneer in using eye movements to study reading processes,” Juhasz said. “I’m honored that I could follow up on research that we worked on together more than a decade ago and have it published in this special issue.”

Psychology Course Focuses on Digital and Video Storytelling Projects

Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology, is teaching a digital intro version of the introductory psychology course (PSYC105), focused on learning social science content through digital and video storytelling projects.

The pilot is funded by the Davis Educational Foundation.


Panel Addresses “Islamophobia in the Age of Trump”

The Wesleyan Refugee Project hosted a faculty panel on "Islamophobia in the Age of Trump" Dec. 7.

The Wesleyan Refugee Project hosted a panel discussion on “Islamophobia in the Age of Trump” on Dec. 7 in Usdan Univesity Center. Speakers included Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development; Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; and Muslim Chaplain Sami Aziz.

Dierker Authors Article on ‘Passion-Driven’ Approach to Teaching Statistics, Data Analysis

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker, the Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology, is the author of a new article, “Falling in Love with Statistics: Shaping Students’ Relationships With Data.” It was published in October in Scientia, a site that seeks to open a dialogue between science and society.

Dierker writes about the novel approach, called Passion-Driven Statistics, that she and her team at Wesleyan developed to teach statistics and data analysis to students from diverse backgrounds. According to the article, it is a “multidisciplinary, project-based approach that is both supportive and engaging for students at all levels of statistical mastery and those coming from diverse educational backgrounds.”