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2011 News

NSF renews grant for scientists who study how the brain acquires visual expertise
Isabel Gauthier and Tom Palmeri photo
The Perceptual Expertise Network (PEN) – a team of psychologists, neuroscientists and computer scientists who study how the brain acquires visual expertise – has received a five-year renewal of support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The PEN collaboration began in 2000 and consists of 9 principal investigators along with their post-doctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students from seven institutions in the United States and Canada. The network is coordinated at Vanderbilt University where it is co-directed by Professor of Psychology Isabel Gauthier and Associate Professor of Psychology Thomas Palmeri.

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December 15, 2011

Innovative Vanderbilt joint degree combines neuroscience and law
Photo of Matt Ginther

Applications are being accepted for the second class of Vanderbilt University’s innovative Ph.D/J.D. track, culminating in degrees in both law and neuroscience.

Vanderbilt launched the first coordinated track through both degrees in 2010 when it enrolled Bowdoin College alumnus Matthew Ginther to take on a challenging curriculum that alternates classes at Vanderbilt Law School and the university’s graduate program in neuroscience.

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November 17, 2011

Putting the body back into the mind of schizophreniaSohee Park and rubber hands

A study using a procedure called the rubber hand illusion has found striking new evidence that people experiencing schizophrenia have a weakened sense of body ownership and has produced the first case of a spontaneous, out-of-body experience in the laboratory.

These findings suggest that movement therapy, which trains people to be focused and centered on their own bodies, including some forms of yoga and dance, could be helpful for many of the 2.2 million people in the United States who suffer from this mental disorder.

The study, which appears in the Oct. 31 issue of the scientific journal Public Library of Science One, measured the strength of body ownership of 24 schizophrenia patients and 21 matched control subjects by testing their susceptibility to the “rubber hand illusion” or RHI. This tactile illusion, which was discovered in 1998, is induced by simultaneously stroking a visible rubber hand and the subject’s hidden hand.

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Arts & Science Magazine Story

October 31, 2011

2011 Fine Science Tool Travel Award
Congratulations to Mary Baldwin and Michele Cox for being selected to receive the 2011 Fine Science Tool Travel Award. This award provides $500 towards the cost of attending the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, DC.

October 24, 2010

Rising Stars - Paul DuxPhoto of Paul Dux, Ph.D.
In case there was any doubt, the future of psychological science is in good hands. In its continuing series, the Observer presents more Rising Stars, exemplars of today’s young psychological scientists. Although they may not be advanced in years, they are already making great advancements in science.

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September 8, 2011

Neuroscience Causes Court Headaches
A Jackson psychiatrist sentenced to prison this year for defrauding Medicare said the blood flow in his brain would prove he was telling the truth. That might sound like a defense strategy that only a psychiatrist could dream up, but questions about neuroscience are increasingly causing courtroom quandaries. The psychiatrist, Dr. Lorne Allan Semrau, has filed an appeal saying that the federal judge in his case erred by refusing to allow evidence from a brain scan that would verify his truthfulness. This type of scan, a functional MRI for lie detection, and other devices that map out how the brain works are so new that judges are holding up trials to take crash courses in neuroscience. Researchers at Vanderbilt University are seeking to provide guidance on how these novel technologies should be used in courtrooms with the support of a $4.85 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Vanderbilt will manage a research network that also includes professors from 10 other universities.

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September 8, 2011

David Zald Awarded a Chancellor's Research AwardDavid Zald Photo

David Zald and Bob Kessler from the Department of Radiology were awarded a Chancellor's Research Award today for their pioneering work on the linkage between personality and individual differences in dopaminergic function. This is highly important work that also involved very significant methodological innovations allowing successful imaging of the midbrain DA system. Congratulations to David and Bob and their other collaborators from the Psychological Sciences and Neuroscience programs, including current faculty (Stephen Benning, David Cole), current students (Michael Treadway), and former students (Josh Buckholtz).

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August 26, 2011

Landmark Law and Neuroscience Network Expands at Vanderbilt
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Vanderbilt University has been awarded a $4.85 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to manage the newly established MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. The MacArthur Research Network on Law and Neuroscience is examining multiple effects of modern neuroscience on criminal law and trying to make neuroscience accessible and beneficial to America’s courtrooms. The network will be led by Vanderbilt professor Owen Jones, who is one of the nation’s few professors of both law and biology.

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August 24, 2011

Ying Yang Head Image
Deep Brain Stimulation Benefits OCD Patients
After more than 15 years of treating movement disorders with deep brain stimulation, Vanderbilt is 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 a similar imbalance exists in the cognitive system with OCD,” says Dr. Joseph Neimat, 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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June 13, 2011

Why people with schizophrenia may have trouble reading social cues
Understanding the actions of other people can be difficult for those with schizophrenia. Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered that impairments in a brain area involved in perception of social stimuli may be partly responsible for this difficulty.

“Misunderstanding social situations and interactions are core deficits in schizophrenia,” said Sohee Park, Gertrude Conaway Professor of Psychology and one of the co-authors on this study. “Our findings may help explain the origins of some of the delusions involving perception and thoughts experienced by those with schizophrenia.”

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May 26, 2011

Cognitive neuroscientist Isabel Gauthier enjoys the process of discovery Isabel Gauthier photo

Long pegged as one of the premier experts in the science of face recognition, Isabel Gauthier’s research has much broader implications – including how our brains work, how we learn, and finding ways to make life better for people with autism.

“No part of the brain works in isolation. It really is a complex process and fairly flexible,” said Gauthier, professor of psychology in the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience program at Vanderbilt. “People change, so clearly their brain is going to change. What I’m really interested in is how the dynamics of the changes in the brain allow for the dynamics of the changes in behavior.”

Gauthier and her team, based in Wilson Hall, spend many hours at the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science in Medical Center North. Using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), they map brain activity. Test subjects volunteer to go into the scanner (much like a regular MRI) and must lie very still while being shown various stimuli, including objects, photographs or even musical notation. When their brain recognizes something they have seen previously, “hot spots” show up, identifying what part of the brain is being used.

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May 20, 2011

Congratulations to Josh Buckholtz for receiving a Founder's Medal during 2011 Commencement

2011 GradsTop scholars from Vanderbilt University’s undergraduate and professional schools are being honored with Founder’s Medals during Commencement on Friday, May 13, 2011. Since 1877, a gold medal has been awarded to the student graduating at the top of his or her class from each of Vanderbilt’s schools. These gold medals are called “Founder’s Medals” in honor of Cornelius Vanderbilt who made a specific contribution to endow the awards in their first year.

Joshua Buckholtz, Potomac, Md., Founder’s Medalist for the Graduate School, is graduating with a doctor of philosophy degree in neuroscience. His research focused on the underlying mechanisms of substance abuse, addiction and psychopathic behavior. He has published 16 articles and two book chapters and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. Buckholtz is the recipient of numerous awards, including a travel grant award from the Motivational Neuron Network, the Elaine Sanders-Bush Neuroscience Research Prize from the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and the Eli Lilly & Co. Graduate Student Travel Award from the Society for Neuroscience. He was also the first recipient of the Vanderbilt Law and Neuroscience Research Prize. He leaves Vanderbilt to become an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

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May 17, 2011

2011 Commencement Faculty Seminars - Bruce McCandliss: Educational Neuroscience: How Education Shapes Brain Development

Bruce McCandiss headshotBruce McCandliss is the Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair of Psychology and Human Development.

McCandliss carries out research that seeks to connect our understanding about changes in children’s brain structure and function to specific aspects of education. This work asks questions such as how educational learning experiences reshape the brain networks that support a child’s basic cognitive skills such as paying attention, reading and mathematics. He is well known for his basic laboratory-based research on the brain mechanisms of attention and studies of how specific learning experiences can change brain activity patterns related to reading skills, yet also for carrying out educational research in school-based studies to investigate the impact of these ideas in “real-world” educational interventions. His research with children and adults include several ways of looking at brain function and structure, including fMRI, ERP and DTI studies of the brain mechanisms that help explain individual differences in basic cognitive skills, including those with special needs.

Dr. McCandliss has published over 50 scientific papers across the fields of neuroscience, psychology, education, and developmental disabilities. He has received several awards including induction in Phi Beta Kappa, the John Merck Scholars Award in the Biology of Developmental Disabilities in Children, and a commendation from the President of the United States (PECASE-award) for outstanding contributions to science. He received his PhD from the University of Oregon in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience before going on for advanced post-doctoral training in neuroimaging at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. In 1999 he became a founding faculty member of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Currently, Dr. McCandliss is a full Professor at Vanderbilt University, where he holds the Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair of Psychology and Human Development and serves as the director of the Educational Neuroscience Lab, and serves on the steering committee for the Vanderbilt Educational Neuroscience Initiative.

Dr. McCandiss will speak in 126 Wilson Hall on Thursday, May 12th, 2011, from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

For more information, please visit the commencement faculty seminars website.

May 11, 2011

John Gore elected to National Academy of Engineering
John Gore PhotoJohn C. Gore, Hertha Ramsey Cress University Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences at Vanderbilt University and professor of biomedical engineering, has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to the development and applications of magnetic resonance and other imaging techniques in medicine.

Gore is the director of the Center for Imaging Science at Vanderbilt and leads the institute by connecting discoveries in the basic sciences and engineering to applications in biology and medicine. Gore holds additional professorships in physics and molecular physiology and biophysics.

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February 14, 2011

Casagrande elected Fellow of the American Association of Anatomists
Vivien Casagrande has just been named a Fellow of the American Association of Anatomists. This is the highest honor that AAA awards to any member. A very well deserved honor and many congratulations to Vivien!

January 31, 2011

Congratulations to Steve Hollon and Sohee Park

Steve Hollon and Sohee Park have each been named the Gertrude Conaway Professor of Psychology. These endowed chairs reflect their great accomplishments and our pride in having them as colleagues in our Department. Congrats to them both!

January 31, 2011

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