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Top Ten Download - Brain Imaging for Legal Thinkers: A Guide for the Perplexed
The paper titled "Brain Imaging for Legal Thinkers: A Guide for the Perplexed" by Owen Jones, Joshua Buckholtz, Jeff Schall and René Marois was recently listed on Social Science Research Network's Top Ten download list for CSN Subject Matter eJournals, Cognitive Social Science eJournal, Corrections & Sentencing Law & Policy eJournal, Criminal Procedure eJournal, Family & Children's Law eJournal, Law & Psychology eJournal and Law, Brain & Behavior eJournals. By December 30th 2010 the paper had been downloaded 609 times. The abstract and download statistics can be see at http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1563612.

December 31, 2010

Brain imaging predicts future reading progress in children with dyslexiaBrain Imaging image

Brain scans of adolescents with dyslexia can be used to predict the future improvement of their reading skills with an accuracy rate of up to 90 percent, new research indicates. Advanced analyses of the brain activity images are significantly more accurate in driving predictions than standardized reading tests or any other measures of children’s behavior.

The finding raises the possibility that a test one day could be developed to predict which individuals with dyslexia would most likely benefit from specific treatments.

The research was published Dec. 20, 2010, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

“This approach opens up a new vantage point on the question of how children with dyslexia differ from one another in ways that translate into meaningful differences two to three years down the line,” Bruce McCandliss, Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and a co-author of the report, said. “Such insights may be crucial for new educational research on how to best meet the individual needs of struggling readers.

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December 21, 2010

Law professor gives input to first report from White House commission on bioethics
Nita Farahany Photo
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released its first report Thursday focusing on the emerging field of synthetic biology. Vanderbilt associate professor of law and philosophy Nita Farahany is on the bioethics commission.

Synthetic biology is research that combines elements of biology, engineering, genetics, chemistry, and computer science. Achievements in synthetic biology rely on artificially created DNA to create new biochemical systems or organisms with enhanced characteristics.

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December 20, 2010

Babies’ biological clocks dramatically affected by birth light cycle
Chris Ciarlegio photo

The season in which babies are born can have a dramatic and persistent effect on how their biological clocks function.

That is the conclusion of a new study published online on Dec. 5 by the journal Nature Neuroscience. The experiment provides the first evidence for seasonal imprinting of biological clocks in mammals and was conducted by Professor of Biological Sciences Douglas McMahon, graduate student Chris Ciarleglio, post-doctoral fellow Karen Gamble and two undergraduate students at Vanderbilt University.

The imprinting effect, which was found in baby mice, may help explain the fact that people born in winter months have a higher risk of a number of neurological disorders including seasonal affective disorder (winter depression), bipolar depression and schizophrenia.

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December 7, 2010

Deep brain stimulation now available for OCD patientsJoseph Neimat, M.D.

After more than 15 years of treating movement disorders with deep brain stimulation, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is now offering the procedure to patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). “In movement disorders like Parkinson's disease, there is an imbalance in the brain's motor system. The cognitive circuit is a mirror of the motor circuit, and we think there is a similar imbalance in the cognitive system with OCD,” said Joseph Neimat, M.D., assistant professor of Neurological Surgery. “We think DBS can be applied with similar success to what we have seen in Parkinson's.”

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves a thin wire implanted into an area deep in the brain. The wire connects to a small pulse generator placed in the chest, similar to a heart pacemaker, which emits an electrical current.

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December 6, 2010

Important Brain Area Organized by Color and Orientation

Important brain area organized by color and orientationA brain area known to play a critical role in vision is divided into compartments that respond separately to different colors and orientations, Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered. The findings have important implications for furthering our understanding of perception and attention. The research was published Nov. 14, 2010, in Nature Neuroscience. “In vision, objects are defined by both their shape and their surface properties, such as color and brightness. For example, to identify a red apple, your visual system must process both the shape of the apple and its color,” Anna Roe, professor of psychology and co-author of the new research, said. “Our study showed that in V4, which is a brain area that plays a role in visual object recognition, there is significant segregation of color/brightness and shape processing regions.

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November 22, 2010

Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt Distinguished Alumnus Award

Congratulations to Leah Krubitzer, winner of the Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt Distinguished Alumnus Award. Leah is currently Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at UC Davis. She received her PhD in Psychology (1984-1989) with Jon Kaas, staying on as a postdoctoral fellow for one more year. She spent the next seven years at the University of Queensland in Australia where she completed an amazing series of experiments in comparative neuroscience. She was appointed Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Davis in 1995, and was rapidly promoted until she became a Full Professor at the age of 40. Leah is considered to be a star in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. She already has been highly recognized with a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award, as well as Cajal Club and Herrick Awards. She has consistently received research funding from NIH, as well as funding from NSF, the McDonnell-Pew program in Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Whitehall Foundation.

November 2, 2010

Fingers detect typos even when conscious brain doesn’t

Gordon & Matt ImageExpert typists are able to zoom across the keyboard without ever thinking about which fingers are pressing the keys. New research from Vanderbilt University reveals that this skill is managed by an autopilot, one that is able to catch errors that can fool our conscious brain.

The research was published in the Oct. 29 issue of Science.

“We all know we do some things on autopilot, from walking to doing familiar tasks like making coffee and, in this study, typing. What we don’t know as scientists is how people are able to control their autopilots,” Gordon Logan, Centennial Professor of Psychology and lead author of the new research, said. “The remarkable thing we found is that these processes are disassociated. The hands know when the hands make an error, even when the mind does not.”

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October 29, 2010

2010 Fine Science Tool Travel Award

Congratulations to Dipanwita Ghose and Juliane Krueger for being selected to receive the 2010 Fine Science Tool Travel Award. This award provides $500 towards the cost of attending the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

October 29, 2010

Neurons cast votes to guide decision-makinggreen & red circle image
We know that casting a ballot in the voting booth involves politics, values and personalities. But before you ever push the button for your candidate, your brain has already carried out an election of its own to make that action possible. New research from VanderbiltUniversity reveals that our brain accumulates evidence when faced with a choice and triggers an action once that evidence reaches a tipping point. The research was published in the October issue of Psychological Review.

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October 11, 2010

Synesthesia Conference Oct. 1-3, 2010

A conference on synesthesia will bring together psychologists, neuroscientists and artists at Wilson Hall Oct. 1-3 to discuss thelatestinformation about what is described by some as a unique “sixth sense.” Randolph Blake, Centennial Professor of Psychology, and Edward Hubbard, a post-doctoral fellow in psychology and human and organizational development, are hosting the conference with support from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development and the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center.

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September 27, 2010

Inside the Mind of a Psychopath
Psychopath Article Image
Neuroscientists are discovering that some of the most cold-blooded killers aren't bad. They suffer from a brain abnormality that sets them adrift in an emotionless world. Article by Kent A. Kiehl and Joshua W. Buckholtz

The word “psychopath” conjures up movie images of brutal, inexplicable violence: Jack Nicholson chasing his family with an ax in The Shining or Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, his face locked into an armored mask to keep him from biting people to death. But real life offers another set of images, that of killers making nice: Ted Bundy as law student and aide to the governor of Washington State, and John Wayne Gacy as the Junior Chamber of Commerce’s “Man of the Year.” Psychopaths are likable guys when they want to be.

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September 10, 2010

Owen Jones PhotoLandmark national project on law and neuroscience to be based at Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt University professor Owen Jones, who is one of the nation’s few professors of both law and biology, has been named director of the national Law and Neuroscience Project, which will now be headquartered at Vanderbilt. The project, an interdisciplinary network examining the impact of modern neuroscience on criminal law, is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has also awarded the University a $700,000 grant to explore and develop potential topics for a second phase of this important research. Jones, one of the original co-directors when the project launched in 2007, said he plans to simultaneously build off some of the most exciting and important developments of Phase I and to gather a group of leading researchers to identify and explore some of the essential work to be done at the increasingly important intersection of neuroscience and criminal law. Funded by a $10 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the first phase of the project was a broadly exploratory interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty at Vanderbilt and more than two dozen leading universities. Through both experimental and theoretical work, researchers investigated the potential implications of neuroscience for criminal responsibility, prediction, treatment, courtroom evidence, and understanding juror and judge decision making.

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August 25, 2010

Why can’t some people put the brakes on impulsive behavior?
Impulsive Behavior Brain ImageEveryone knows the type. Maybe it’s you or someone close to you. We’re talking about the kind of people who act without thinking. A group of Vanderbilt researchers analyzed the role of the brain chemical dopamine in impulsivity to discover more precisely what makes some people more susceptible to rash behavior. Their results appear in the July 31 on-line issue of Science. The researchers were able to demonstrate a specific deficit in the way the brain regulates dopamine signaling in people prone to impulsivity, according to Joshua W. Buckholtz, a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience, and David Zald, associate professor of psychology and psychiatry.

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August 25, 2010

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Owen Jones & René Marios

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Turning science fiction into legal reality: The impact of behavioral genetics and neuroscience on the law
Nita Farahany PhotoA time could soon come when genetic tests and neurological brain scans are introduced as evidence in criminal trials as readily as DNA evidence is today. That’s why, in a first-of-its-kind book titled The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law, Vanderbilt University assistant professor of law and philosophy Nita Farahany brought together experts across multiple disciplines, including geneticists, neuroscientists, philosophers, policymakers and legal scholars, to give cutting edge insight on this controversial and emerging field.

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August 25, 2010

Professor's research provides new insights into the strategies people use to track multiple moving objects

Adriane Seiffert PhotoTracking moving objects is a vital skill for playing sports, driving a car through an intersection and many other daily activities. Despite its importance, the core component of this ability – how attention follows moving objects – remains a mystery. Shedding light on this capability is the focus of Adriane Seiffert’s research and the assistant professor of psychology’s latest two papers on the subject published in the Journal of Vision (JOV) have provided some new insights into the strategies people use to track multiple moving objects.

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June 22, 2010

Awards to Steven Hollon and Bunmi Olatunji

Steven Hollon
Bunmi Olatunji PhotoProfessor of Psychology Steven Hollon received the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychologyfrom the Society of Clinical Psychology (APA Division 12) in recognition for his body of work on cognitive therapyfor depression. Bunmi Olatunji, assistant professor of psychology, won the David Shakow Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology from the clinical psychology division of the American Psychological Association. Olatunji was also awarded the President's New Researcher Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Congrats to Steven and Bunmi!

June 22, 2010

Department of Psychology Scientific Development Awards

Congratulations to Katy Thakkar and Braden Purcell for receiving the Department of Psychology Scientific Development Award. This brand new award will be given annually to a select group of students in the graduate program in Psychological Sciences in the Department of Psychology. This award provides a $5000 fund to be used towards expenses in research and scientific training. These awards are made possible by the Psychology Department Memorial Fund, originally endowed in 1982 by departmental faculty to support awards for undergraduate and graduate research. Congrats to Katy and Braden!

June 17, 2010

New magnet to sharpen imaging capabilities at VU

John Gore PhotoThe Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science has received a $3.45 million federal stimulus grant to purchase one of the world's strongest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. The 15 Tesla scanner will be used in studies of genetically engineered mice and other small animal models to further understanding of cancer, diabetes and brain disorders in humans. One Tesla is roughly 20,000 times the strength of the magnetic field of the earth. Because the 15 Tesla scanner is so mighty, it can generate exquisitely detailed images of the brain and other body structures, and measure minute levels of key compounds, including cancer “biomarkers.” Since these imaging methods are non-invasive, they can be conducted repeatedly in living animals. For these reasons, “magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy have become very powerful tools for studying … animal models of disease and effects of genetic manipulations,” said institute director John Gore, Ph.D.

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June 7, 2010

2010 William F. Hodges Teaching Assistant Award Winners : Mary Baldwin and Phil Ko

2010 William F. Hodges Teaching Assistant Award Winners : Mary Baldwin and Phil Ko. William Hodges was an undergraduate and a graduate student at Vanderbilt who received his doctorate in 1967. He subsequently went to the University of Colorado where he ultimately became a Full Professor and Director of Graduate Studies. He was well known for his research on the psychological impact of divorce, but he was also recognized as a great teacher. After his untimely death in 1992, family and friends established the William F. Hodges Teaching Assistant Award at Vanderbilt to honor outstanding teaching assistants in the Department of Psychology. In some years, winners of the Hodges Award are recognized for singular achievement in one particular TA assignment. This year, we recognize two individuals who have been outstanding TA's year after year. Both of these individuals are people we have turned to first in filling many of our most challenging TA assignments. Both are people that faculty have asked for explicitly to be TA's in their classes. Both have received excellent course evaluations from students and faculty year after year. This year's co-winners of the William F. Hodges Teaching Assistant Award are Mary Baldwin and Phil Ko.

April 30, 2010

2010 Pat Burns Memorial Graduate Student Research Award Winner : Katy Thakkar

2010 Pat Burns Memorial Graduate Student Research Award Winner : Katy Thakkar. Pat Burns worked as the Education Coordinator in the Department of Psychology until she passed away in 2007. In memory of her tireless efforts to guide our students through all phases of their graduate education, the department established this award to recognize outstanding achievement in research by a current graduate student. This years winner is "a brilliant student" ... who has "successfully developed two highly innovative and important research programs" ... And is one of the most "collaborative, synergistic, creative and mature people in Wilson Hall." She has 11 publication and more under review and has received independently-funded graduate fellowships. "She is clearly a rising star who has already achieved much but is likely to play a major role in shaping the future of schizophrenia research." The 2010 winner of the Pat Burns Memorial Graduate Student Research Award is Katy Thakkar.

April 30, 2010

Vanderbilt law professor set to join White House commission on bioethical issues

Nita Farahany PhotoThe White House announced that it plans to appoint Vanderbilt associate professor of law and philosophy Nita Farahany to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. The commission will advise President Obama on legal, philosophical and social issues arising from the biosciences and to suggest policies to ensure scientific research, health care delivery and technological innovation are conducted in an ethically responsible manner.

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April 9, 2010

The Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

The Madison Sarratt Prize for excellence in Undergraduate Teaching was won by Terry Page, professor of biological sciences and director of the Neuroscience Studies Program. The winner is selected by the chancellor from nominations by undergraduate students. "Today, we recognize Terry for his outstanding ability to connect with and challenge students while nurturing their enthusiasm for science," said Chancellor Zeppos. "In addition to being an excellent classroom teacher, he is an outstanding teacher in the lab, and is praised for exemplary mentoring skills and a keen sense of humor." Congrats to Terry Page!

April 9, 2010

Psychopaths’ brains wired to seek rewards, no matter the consequences

Psychopath Brain photoThe brains of psychopaths appear to be wired to keep seeking a reward at any cost, new research from Vanderbilt University finds. The research uncovers the role of the brain’s reward system in psychopathy and opens a new area of study for understanding what drives these individuals. The results were published March 14, 2010, in Nature Neuroscience. “Psychopaths are often thought of as cold-blooded criminals who take what they want without thinking about consequences,” Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the new study, said. “We found that a hyper-reactive dopamine reward system may be the foundation for some of the most problematic behaviors associated with psychopathy, such as violent crime, recidivism and substance abuse.”

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March 16, 2010

Why surprises temporarily blind us

brain imageMarios & Asplund photoReading this story requires you to willfully pay attention to the sentences and to tune out nearby conversations, the radio and other distractions. But if a fire alarm sounded, your attention would be involuntarily snatched away from the story to the blaring sound. New research from Vanderbilt University reveals for the first time how our brains coordinate these two types of attention and why we may be temporarily blinded by surprises. The research was published March 7, 2010, in Nature Neuroscience. “The simple example of having your reading interrupted by a fire alarm illustrates a fundamental aspect of attention: what ultimately reaches our awareness and guides our behavior depends on the interaction between goal-directed and stimulus-driven attention. For coherent behavior to emerge, you need these two forms of attention to be coordinated,” René Marois, associate professor of psychology and co-author of the new study, said. “We found a brain area, the inferior frontal junction, that may play a primary role in coordinating these two forms of attention.”

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Nature Neuroscience

March 11, 2010

Emily Grossman wins 2010 Randolph Blake Early Career Award

Emmy Grossman PhotoCongratulations to Emily Grossman on winning the 2010 Randolph Blake Early Career Award. This award recognizes exemplary alumni of the Graduate Program in Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt in the early stages of their career. Emmy received her PhD in Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt in 2002. She is currently Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at UC Irvine. Her innovative research on the neural bases of biological motion perception has established her as a recognized leader in that field of study. Emmy recently distinguished herself with an Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation.

February 19, 2010

Tong wins Troland Research Award

Frank Tong PhotoThe National Academy of Sciences has honored Frank Tong, associate professor of psychology, with its 2010 Troland Research Award. The Troland Research Awards of $50,000 each are given annually to young investigators (age 40 and under) to recognize unusual achievement and to further empirical research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology. Past Vanderbilt Department of Psychology Troland recipients are Isabel Gauthier, professor of psychology, 2008, former faculty member Marvin Chun, now a professor of psychology at Yale University, 2006, and E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Neuroscience Jeffrey Schall, 1998.

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January 20, 2010

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