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Two Faculty Members Receive Major Teaching Awards

Adriane SeiffertAdriane Seiffert won the Harriet S. Gilliam Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Lecturer or Senior Lecturer.
The Gilliam Award was established in 1995 in memory of Harriet S. Gilliam, B.A., 1966. The award recognizes a lecturer or senior lecturer who has achieved excellence in teaching undergraduates. Candidates may be either full- or part-time and must have taught at least five semesters. Nominations are reviewed and ranked by student members of Phi Beta Kappa, after which the dean selects a winner. The award winner receives a cash award and an engraved Mississippi Julep pewter cup. Adriane is the second winner of this award from our Department (Leslie Smith won it back in 1995).

Alex MaierAlex Maier won the The Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching
Established in 1985 by the College of Arts and Science in collaboration with the Graduate School, this award recognizes a graduate faculty member in the College of Arts and Science for outstanding classroom teaching. The Committee on Graduate Education chooses award recipients from among departmental nominees upon evaluation of student testimonials, course evaluations, and the faculty member's own statement of teaching philosophy. Each winner receives a cash award and an engraved Mississippi Julep pewter cup. Alex is the third recipient of this award by a faculty member of our Department (Steve Hollon and Andy Tomarken are previous winners).

December 4, 2018

Casagrande honored at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience Conference

Vivien Casagrande

At a ceremony yesterday at meetings of the Society for Neuroscience our friend and colleague Vivien Casagrande was announced as the 2018 winner of the Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor Award. Named in honor of the late Paticia Goldman-Rakic, this award is given posthumously for recognition "of a neuroscientist who pursued career excellence and exhibited dedication to the advancement of women in neuroscience." To quote from the SfN website: The late Vivien Casagrande, PhD, was an internationally known neuroscientist with a remarkable record of groundbreaking research on sensory systems and development. She joined the Vanderbilt University faculty in 1975, where she was a professor of biology and psychology. Her research, which mapped the visual brain circuitry in a variety of species, has advanced the understanding of the development and evolution of the mammalian visual system. Casagrande published 130 research papers in neuroscience and authored or coauthored an additional 30 chapters and reviews. She received numerous awards for her research, including the American Association of Anatomists' C.J. Herrick Award for contributions to comparative neuroscience, the Vanderbilt Chancellor's Award for Research, and election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Casagrande was a past president of the Cajal Club, the nation's oldest neuroscience society, and served twice as president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. Her teaching and mentoring contributions were recognized by her receipt of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 2015. Casagrande passed away in 2017 from cancer. Vanderbilt has honored her memory by establishing an endowed lecture series and an endowed, annual travel award for an outstanding graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. In addition, funds from Casagrande's estate have been used to endow a scholarship in neuroscience at Vanderbilt. We are happy that her husband, James McKenna (Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt) will have the crystal bowl marking this honor.

November 7, 2018

Cockroaches use karate kicks to avoid becoming zombies

Science Mag

If you're looking to avoid becoming one of the living dead this Halloween, you might want to take a page out of the cockroach survival guide. Researchers wanted to see whether roaches had developed any specific defense mechanisms to ward off emerald jewel wasps, whose stings can paralyze roaches, turning them first into a zombie egg vessel, then food for wasp larvae. Using ultra–slow-speed videography, the scientists spotted the cockroaches delivering karate kicks with their spiny back legs to the heads of wasps getting into stinging position, The Atlantic reports. Of the adult cockroaches that attempted the roundhouse maneuver, 63% were successful in getting the wasp to buzz off towards an easier target, the researchers report today in Brain, Behavior and Evolution.

Original Article

October 31, 2018

Why a Vanderbilt Researcher is Using Virtual Reality to Fight Opioids Addiction


Video games were once Noah Robinson's only way to cope. When he couldn't bear the challenges of growing up as an outsider, he fell into immersive worlds that eased his tensions and helped him feel less alone.

Read more

March 19, 2018

To Unlock the Brain's Mysteries, Purée It - The New York Times


A Vanderbilt neuroscientist has discovered an unusual but shockingly fruitful way to study our most enigmatic organ. Vanderbilt's very own Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Ph.D. was featuredin an article in The New York Times. Check out the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/magazine/to-unlock-the-brains-mysteries-puree-it.html

Dec. 14, 2017

New Neurolaw Documentary


The BBC World Service has recently broadcast the half-hour documentary "Neurolaw and Order," hosted by Research Network Director Owen Jones.

The program features a variety of scholars within the field of law and neuroscience including Larry Steinberg, Adriana Galvan, Nita Farahany, Kent Kiehl, and Joshua Greene.

The program lives on at the link here. It focuses particular attention on neuroscience related to juvenile justice and determinations of responsibility.

Dec. 11, 2017

Announcing Kenneth C. Catania as the Keynote Speaker at VSS 2018


VSS is pleased to welcome Kenneth C. Catania as the VSS 2018 Keynote Speaker. Dr. Catania is the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. He is considered an expert in exotic animal behaviors, focusing on how specialized species reveal general principles about the organization of sensory systems. Dr. Catania was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2006 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2014. In 2013, he received the Pradel Research Award in Neurosciences from the National Academy of Sciences. In his talk entitled "More than meets the eye: the extraordinary brains and behaviors of specialized predators," Dr. Catania will describe the neurobiology and behavior of unusual species, including star-nosed moles, tentacled snakes, and electric eels. He will discuss predator-prey interactions, in particular how these interactions have resulted in the evolution of high-acuity senses and dramatic attack and escape behaviors.

Dec. 01, 2017

Congratulations to Gordon and his colleagues for winning the 2016 Ig Nobel prize in Psychology!


The award is given for their work on the effect of age on lying. The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people laugh and then think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology. These prizes are annually handed out at Harvard by genuine Nobel Laureates.

Original Article

Sep 23, 2016

Dr. Steve Hollon Wins the 2016 Joseph Lubin Award for Research in Psychopathology


Dr. Steve Hollon has won the 2016 Joseph Zubin award from the Society for Research in Psychopathology (SRP)! The SRP bestows this award each year to one deserving individual for lifetime contributions to the understanding of psychopathology. It was established in 1986 and officially named the Joseph Zubin Award in 1990. It is considered the most prestigious award for psychopathology research. Congratulations!

Complete List of the Award Winners
About Joseph Lubin Award

Sep 19, 2016

Vanderbilt Graduate Joshua Buckholtz Wins the 2016 Janet Taylor Spence Award


Vanderbilt graduate Joshua Buckholtz, Ph.D., has been awarded the 2016 Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformational Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Before accepting a Harvard University position, Joshua Buckholtz had carried out his neuroscience research under mentorship of Dr. David Zald.

Research contributions can be transformative in various ways, such as the establishment of new approaches or paradigms within a field of psychology, or the development or advancement of research that cuts across fields of psychological science. Recipients reflect the best of the many new and cutting edge ideas coming out of our most creative and promising investigators who, together, embody the future of psychological science.

Feb 20, 2016

Geoffrey Woodman Receives 2016 Troland Research Award

portrait The National Academy of Sciences has announced that Geoffrey Woodman, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, will receive a 2016 Troland Research Award.

The academy gives two of these $75,000 research awards annually to     recognize unusual achievement by young investigators and to further empirical research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology.

Woodman has been working to unite techniques used to study the brain activity in humans with those used in animals, combining intracranial recordings in monkeys with scalp recordings. Such work is helping to bridge the gap between research in humans and primates.

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Jan 25, 2016

Three CICN trainees have been named Fellows of the Association for Psychological Science

Thomas W. James, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Indiana University, was a postdoctoral fellow with Isabel Gauthier. Joshua Brown, also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Indiana University, was a postdoctoral fellow with Jeff Schall as was Chi-Hung Juan, Professor in the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at National Central University, Taiwan.

Fellow status is awarded to APS Members who have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service, and/or application.

Full List of Fellows

June 14, 2015

Gauthier named winner of 2015 SEC Faculty Achievement Award

   Isabel Gauthier, David K. Wilson Professor of Psychology and professor of radiology and radiological sciences at Vanderbilt, is a recipient of the 2015 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award. These annual awards recognize one faculty member from each SEC university who has excelled in teaching, research and scholarship.

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April 8, 2015

Congratulations to Dr. Braden Purcell!

Dr. Purcell is one of four winners of the 2013-2014 James McKeen Cattell Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Psychology. The award, in its 43rd year, drew a distinguished pool of candidates. Dr. Purcell's dissertation is titled Neural Mechanisms of Perceptual Decision Making and he was mentored by Dr. Thomas J. Palmeri and Dr. Jeffrey D. Schall.

Full Story New York Academy of Sciences,

September 4, 2014

Eyes That See in The Dark

Randolph Blake's findings on how some people can see in pitch-dark intrigues.

Full Story: Scientific American, Slate, NPR

November 25, 2013

Congratulations to Jon Kaas!

Jon Kaas is the winner of the 2014 George A. Miller Prize in Cognitive Neuroscience awarded by the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. The prize is awarded annually to a neuroscientist who has conducted cutting-edge research that has revolutionized the field.

Full Story

November 14, 2013

Two Vanderbilt professors part of PBS series Brains on Trial Sept. 11 and 18

Research conducted at Vanderbilt is featured in Brains on Trial with Alan Alda, a two-part televised series airing Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 on PBS that explores how the growing ability to separate truth from lies may radically affect the way criminal trials are conducted in the future. It will be shown at 9 p.m. central time on WNPT, Nashville.s public television station.

Full Story

September 10, 2013

Congratulations to Isabel Gauthier!

Isabel Gauthier has been elected as a Fellow of the Society for Experimental Psychologists. This is the oldest and most prestigious honorary society in Psychology, with only a handful of Fellows elected every year. This is a richly deserved honor for Isabel. Along with Randolph Blake, Jon Kaas, and Gordon Logan, our department now has 4 members in this Society.

Congrats to Isabel!

December 10, 2012

Congratulations to Daryl Fougnie and René Marois!

Division 3 of APA recently announced young investigator awards given for outstanding articles by young investigators in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (JEP) journals. Daryl Fougnie, former graduate student in René Marois's lab, was one of the two winners of the award for JEP: Learning, Memory, and Cognition for an article he published with Rene.

Fougnie, D., & Marois, R. (2011). What limits working memory capacity? Evidence for modality-specific sources to the simultaneous storage of visual and auditory arrays. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 1329-1341.

Congratulations to both Daryl and Rene!

December 6, 2012

Congratulations to Isabel Gauthier and Steven Hollon!

Two CICN Investigators won significant awards at the December College Faculty Meeting on December 4, 2012. Isabel Gauthier won the Graduate Mentoring Award and Steve Hollon won the Graduate Teaching Award. Congratulations to Isabel and Steve on these well deserved honors!

December 5, 2012

Brain study provides new insight into why haste makes waste

Jeff Schall & Richard HeitzWhy do our brains make more mistakes when we act quickly?

A new study demonstrates how the brain follows Ben Franklin’s famous dictum, “Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste.”

The research – conducted by Research Assistant Professor Richard Heitz and Jeffrey Schall, Ingram Professor of Neuroscience, at Vanderbilt University – has found that the brain actually switches into a special mode when pushed to make rapid decisions.

The study was published Nov. 7 in the journal Neuron.

“This is a question that is very basic to our experience as human beings, and something that we encounter on a daily basis,” Heitz, who designed and carried out the study, said. “If we can understand how our brain changes when we are pushed to respond faster, we have gone a long way toward understanding the decision-making process in general.”

Full Story


November 12, 2012

VU Neuroscience Graduate Program recognized as best in the nation for 2012

Brain Matters Image
Vanderbilt University’s Neuroscience Graduate Program has been named the 2012 “Program of the Year” by the Society for Neuroscience.

The award was presented Sunday, Oct. 14, during the society’s annual meeting in New Orleans. With more than 42,000 members, the society is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to advancing understanding of the brain and nervous system.

The Neuroscience Program of the Year Award recognizes excellence and “the most significant and impactful innovations” in educating neuroscientists that can serve as models for training programs worldwide.

“Founded in 1999, the Neuroscience Graduate Program has grown into one of the premier biomedical graduate programs at Vanderbilt and in the nation,” said Mark Wallace, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute (VBI), which administers the program.

Full Story

October 22, 2012

2012 Fine Science Tool Travel Award

Congratulations to Aaron Nidiffer, Christina Cerkevich and Yaoguang Jiang for being selected to receive the 2012 Fine Science Tool Travel Award. This award provides $500 towards the cost of attending the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans, LA.

October 8, 2012

Auto experts recognize cars like most people recognize faces

Isabel Gau
When people – and monkeys – look at faces, a special part of their brain that is about the size of a blueberry “lights up.” Now, the most detailed brain-mapping study of the area yet conducted has confirmed that it isn’t limited to processing faces, as some experts have maintained, but instead serves as a general center of expertise for visual recognition.

Neuroscientists previously established that this region, which is called the fusiform face area (FFA) and is located in the temporal lobe, is responsible for a particularly effective form of visual recognition. But there has been an ongoing debate about whether this area is hard-wired to recognize faces because of their importance to us or if it is a more general mechanism that allows us to rapidly recognize objects that we work with extensively.

Full Story

October 1, 2012

Sex matters: Guys recognize cars and women recognize birds best

Research ImageWomen are better than men at recognizing living things and men are better than women at recognizing vehicles.

That is the unanticipated result of an analysis Vanderbilt psychologists performed on data from a series of visual recognition tasks collected in the process of developing a new standard test for expertise in object recognition.

“These results aren’t definitive, but they are consistent with the following story,” said Gauthier. “Everyone is born with a general ability to recognize objects and the capability to get really good at it. Nearly everyone becomes expert at recognizing faces, because of their importance for social interactions. Most people also develop expertise for recognizing other types of objects due to their jobs, hobbies or interests. Our culture influences which categories we become interested in, which explains the differences between men and women.”

Full Story

September 17, 2012

The Amazing Life and Memory of H.K. Derryberry

Brandon AlleyIn the summer of 1990, Mary* was 19 years old, six months pregnant, sitting on a cooler of beer, watching her boyfriend and his friends cut hay in Maury County, Tenn. When they left the fields after the sun went down, her boyfriend was driving with the radio up loud. Mary said something, and as he turned to hear her better, he lost control of the vehicle. It spun and went backward down an embankment, buckling against a tree and tossing Mary out the open window.

She was flown to Vanderbilt with massive head injuries and would not survive. The boyfriend had only minor injuries and joined their mothers in the waiting room as a doctor posed this question: “Do you want us to take the baby or let him go with her?”

The boyfriend and his mother, Pearl, had no say in the matter, but Mary’s mother said, “Take him. Salvage what you can,” and Pearl says she is forever grateful for that decision to save the life of her grandson, H.K. Derryberry. The little boy was given his father and mother’s middle initials, shortened to H.K.

(Photo - Brandon Ally, Ph.D., said studying H.K.s autobiographical memory and brain is a once-in-a-career experience.)

Full Story

September 17, 2012

Leanne Boucher Welcomes Students

Leanne Boucher Leanne Boucher, Ph.D., who completed postdoctoral training with Gordon Logan, Tom Palmeri and Jeff Schall, received the 2012 Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Full-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award at Nova Southeastern Univeristy. She represented the faculty at the annual Convocation in welcoming students and introducing this year’s academic theme of “Life and Death.”

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Sept. 14, 2012

Congratulations to Isabel Gauthier

Isabel Gauthier
The Department of Psychology is thrilled to announce that Isabel Gauthier has officially been appointed the David K. Wilson Chair of Psychology. Congratulations, Isabel, on this well-deserved honor.

August 22, 2012

Evolutionary Perspective Illuminates Controversial Economic Theory

Owen Jones PhotoGroundbreaking new research in the field of evolutionary analysis in law not only provides additional evidence that chimpanzees share the controversial human psychological trait known as the “endowment effect” – which in humans has implications for law – but also shows the effect can be turned on or off for single objects, depending on their immediate situational usefulness.

In humans, the endowment effect causes people to consider an item they have just come to possess as higher in value than the maximum price they would have paid to acquire it just a moment before. Economists and lawyers typically assume this will not be the case. And some consider the endowment effect a human-centered fluke, subject to widespread and seemingly unpredictable variation. The origins of the quirk, and satisfying explanations for how it varies, have proved elusive.

In this new research, Vanderbilt University professor Owen Jones, who is one of the nation’s few professors of both law and biology, and evolutionary biologist Sarah Brosnan of Georgia State University, developed and tested predictions rooted in evolutionary theory about when and how the endowment effect would appear.

Full Story

July 9, 2012

Dance the Plight Away

Rubber Hands ImageIn the Middle Ages, people who felt disconnected from their own bodies would probably have been subject to exorcism. Today, modern medicine prescribes pills to banish such sensations from patients’ brains. Research led by Sohee Park, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology, sheds new light on this common symptom of schizo-phrenia and suggests that patients may benefit from an alternative type of treatment—dance.

Park, along with doctoral candidate Katharine Thakkar, MA’08, and research analysts Heathman Nichols, BA’10, and Lindsey Gilling McIntosh, BA’11, measured schizophrenics’ deficient sense of body ownership by employing a procedure known as the rubber hand illusion. The researchers placed a rubber hand in front of each subject while hiding one of the subject’s own hands from view. As researchers stroked each hand simultaneously, subjects were asked to estimate the position of their hidden hand using a ruler atop the device hiding it.

Full Story

July 9, 2012

Peabody, Vanderbilt Brain Institute launch nation’s first doctorate in educational neuroscienceBrain Image

Vanderbilt University is leading the way in research that merges the fields of education and neuroscience by launching the country’s first Ph.D. program in educational neuroscience.

Slated to begin fall 2012, this interdisciplinary program brings together Vanderbilt’s No. 1 ranked Peabody College of education and human development and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, which administers one of the nation’s largest and highest ranking neuroscience programs, to research educational issues within a brain science context.

Educational neuroscience is an emerging area of inquiry within the broader landscape of modern neuroscience. This new program responds to an increased demand for further scientific understanding in the areas of child development, educational assessment, educational intervention and family processes.

“We believe that educational neuroscience is the new frontier in education, where there will be exciting discoveries that can enhance the learning capacity for all,” said Camilla Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. “I am pleased to have Peabody College as a partner in this collaboration that is leading the way into the future.”

Mark Wallace, director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, says this new program has the potential to use contemporary neuroscience approaches and knowledge to create better learning environments for children.

Full Story

May 31, 2012

Dopamine impacts your willingness to work

Zald News ImageSlacker or go-getter?

Everyone knows that people vary substantially in how hard they are willing to work, but the origin of these individual differences in the brain remains a mystery. Now the veil has been pushed back by a new brain imaging study that has found an individual’s willingness to work hard to earn money is strongly influenced by the chemistry in three specific areas of the brain. In addition to shedding new light on how the brain works, the research could have important implications for the treatment of attention-deficit disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness characterized by decreased motivation.

The study was published May 2 in the Journal of Neuroscience and was performed by a team of Vanderbilt scientists including postdoctoral student Michael Treadway and Professor of Psychology David Zald.

Full StorySFN Story

May 4, 2012

Congratulations to Leanne Boucher, Ph.D.

Leanne Boucher PhotoEach spring, the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences recognizes one full-time and one part-time faculty member as its outstanding teachers of the year, honoring their strong commitment to learning and student success. These awards reflect the endorsement and support of peers and students. Leanne Boucher, assistant professor at the college, has received the 2012 Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Full-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. Congrats to Leanne!

Full Story

April 27, 2012

Vanderbilt to study deep brain stimulation as treatment for depression
Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one of approximately 20 centers in a nationwide clinical study investigating the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) as an intervention for patients with major depression.

BROADEN™ (BROdmann Area 25 DEep brain Neuromodulation) is the first randomized clinical research study to investigate DBS as an intervention for patients diagnosed with unipolar major depressive disorder (excluding bipolar disorder) who have not improved after multiple treatments.

DBS is a therapy that uses mild pulses of current (stimulation) to regulate specific areas of the brain, much like a pacemaker uses pulses of current to regulate the heart.

In this study, stimulation is being delivered to an area of the brain known as Brodmann Area 25, which is believed to function differently in people with major depression and appears to be overactive when people are profoundly sad and depressed.

Vanderbilt was chosen to participate in this study, which builds on the work of a research team from the University of Toronto led by Helen S. Mayberg and Andres Lozano, because of its extensive experience with various forms of neuromodulation and in treating psychiatric illness.

Ronald Salomon, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry, is the principal investigator for the study at Vanderbilt, working with Joseph Neimat, M.D., assistant professor of Neurological Surgery, the co-investigator and neurosurgeon responsible for performing the DBS implantation procedure.

Full Story

April 19, 2012

Crime and punishment: the neurobiological roots of modern justice
Scale Image

The willingness of people to punish others who lie, cheat, steal or violate other social norms even when they weren’t harmed and don’t stand to benefit personally, is a distinctly human behavior. There is scant evidence that other animals, even other primates, behave in this “I punish you because you harmed him” fashion. Although this behavior – called third-party punishment – has long been institutionalized in human legal systems and economists have identified it as one of the key factors that can explain the exceptional degree of cooperation that exists in human society, it is a new subject for neuroscience.

In a paper published online on April 15 by the journal Nature Neuroscience, a pair of neuroscientists from Vanderbilt and Harvard universities has proposed the first neurobiological model for third-party punishment. It outlines a collection of potential cognitive and brain processes that evolutionary pressures could have re-purposed to make this behavior possible.

“The concepts of survival of the fittest or the selfish gene that the public generally associates with evolution are incomplete,” said René Marois, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt, who co-authored the paper with Joshua Buckholtz, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard. “Prosociality – voluntary behavior intended to benefit other people even when they are not kin – does not necessarily confer genetic benefits directly on specific individuals but it creates a stable society that improves the overall survival of the group’s offspring.”

Full Story

April 18, 2012

2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Winners & Honorable Mentions

2012 NSF winners
The Psychological Sciences Program had tremendous success in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program this year. Congrats to Michele Cox (Maier Lab), Ayzit Doydum (McCandliss Lab), Emily Fyfe (Rittle-Johnson Lab) and Sonia Poltoratski (Tong Lab), all of whom have been awarded an NSF research fellowship. Congratulations are also in order for Robert Reinhart (Woodman lab), Kelsey Laird (Walker Lab) and Kao-Wei Chua (Gauthier Lab) each of whom received an honorable mention for their Fellowship application.

Congrats to all!

April 13, 2012

Breakdown of white-matter pathways affects decisionmaking as we ageGregory Samanez-Larkin photo

If you are an aging baby boomer and you’ve noticed it’s a bit harder to drive to unfamiliar locations or to pick a new brand of olive oil at the supermarket, you can blame it on the white matter in your brain.

A brain-mapping study, published in the April 11 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, has found that people’s ability to make decisions in novel situations decreases with age and is associated with a reduction in the integrity of two specific white-matter pathways that connect an area in the cerebral cortex called the medial prefrontal cortex with two other areas deeper in the brain.

Grey matter is the part of the brain that contains the bodies of the neurons while white matter contains the cable-like axons that carry signals from one part of the brain to another. In the past, most brain-imaging research has concentrated on the grey matter. Recently, however, neuroscientists have begun looking more closely at white matter. It has been linked to the brain’s processing speed and attention span, among other things, but this is the first study to link white matter to learning and decision making.

“The evidence that this decline in decision-making is associated with white-matter integrity suggests that there may be effective ways to intervene,” said Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin, the post-doctoral fellow in Vanderbilt’s psychology department and Institute of Imaging Science, who is the study’s first author. “Several studies have shown that white-matter connections can be strengthened by specific forms of cognitive training.”

Full Story

April 13, 2012

Minds wide open: Neuroscience at Vanderbilt
News Image
Vanderbilt University has emerged as one of the nation’s leading academic centers in neuroscience, the study of the nervous system and the brain.

Researchers here are advancing understanding of autism, addiction and mood disorders, improving the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, and finding new ways to help children succeed in school.

By exploring how the brain perceives, decides, remembers and reacts, they also are revealing how, in the words of Vanderbilt neuroscientist René Marois, “this piece of flesh could yield such a complex thing as the mind.”

Full Story

April 6, 2012

Congratulations to Sohee Park!Sohee Park Photo

At the 2012 Spring faculty assembly Sohee was awarded the Alexander Heard Distinguished Service Professor Award for 2012. This award is conferred upon a Vanderbilt faculty member in recognition of their contributions to understanding problems of contemporary society. Sohee is well deserving of this award for her ground-breaking work on cognitive, affective, and neural components of schizophrenia and its vulnerability.

Congratulations Sohee!

Full Story

March 30, 2012

Congratulations Geoff Woodman!

Geoff WoodmanGeoff Woodman is the winner of the 2012 Vision Sciences Society (VSS) Young Investigator Award. Geoff is the second member of our faculty to win this prestigious award. Geoff will give a 40 min talk on Sunday night, May 13 2012 and write a substantive and original review article to appear in Vision Research.

Congratulations Geoff!

March 19, 2012

Congratulations to Paul Dux, winner of the 2012 Randolph Blake Early Career Award! photo of Paul Dux

Paul was a post-doctoral fellow in the Dept of Psychology working with René Marois from 2005 to 2008. Paul received his Ph.D. from Macquarie University (Australia) in 2005. After being at Vanderbilt for 3 years, he accepted a position in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where he is currently a tenured lecturer.

Paul has broad interests in the area of attention and its neural mechanisms. In his short time as a faculty member, Paul has already amassed 10 publications, including two in Psychological Science. He serves on several editorial boards, including those of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, and Journal of Experimental Psychology:General.

His rapid rise is also illustrated by his receiving in 2010 the University of Queensland Social and Behavioural Sciences Faculty Research and Innovation Award, and in 2009 the Australian Psychological Society Early Career Research Award, the Australian equivalent of the APA’s Young Investigator Award. Moreover, in 2011 Paul has been recognized as a Rising Star by the Association of Psychological Science (USA).

In addition to these personal accolades, Paul has been very successful in attracting extramural funding, particularly two Australian Research Council Discovery Grants ­– one as the sole PI and the other as co-PI – as well as a National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant.

Congrats to Paul!

February 21, 2012

Congrats to Jeremiah Cohen
Jeremiah Cohen photo
Congratulations to recent graduate Jeremiah Cohen for a paper published in Nature this month. The article, Neuron-type-specific signals for reward and punishment in the ventral tegmental area can be found here. There is also an interesting blog post titled Light Dissection of Reward regarding this article and can be read here.

January 26th, 2012

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