Participant Bios

Student Participants

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Nathan Ahlgrim

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3rd year Neuroscience Ph.D. Student, Emory University
Memory and Hippocampus Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Joseph Manns
Email: nathan.ahlgrim@emory.edu

In Dr. Joseph Manns’ lab, we use a rat model to study how the hippocampus functions to enable the formation and expression of memory.  The amygdala is a critical modulator of hippocampal memory, and I want to know how the amygdala communicates with the hippocampus to prioritize specific memories for consolidation.  To do this, I am using a combination of electrical stimulation, optogenetic stimulation, and in vivo electrophysiological recordings while rats perform an object recognition task.  My goal is to determine which pathways are involved in this amygdala-hippocampus interaction, and how this communication can be optimized to produce the greatest benefit to memory.

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Vlad Ayzenberg

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Ph.D. candidate, Cognition and Development, Emory University
Emory Spatial Cognition Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Stella Lourenco
E-mail: vayzenb@emory.edu

I am a third year graduate student in Dr. Stella Lourenco’s Spatial Cognition Lab. My research broadly asks, what are the mechanisms that allow humans to recognize objects across variation and viewpoint? Using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques, I investigate this question in both adults and children so that we may better understand the innate mechanisms that support object recognition and understand how experience may help shape this ability.

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Ryan Brady

Ryan Brady

Ph.D. candidate, Neuroscience and Animal Behavior, Emory University
Laboratory of Comparative Primate Cognition
Advisor: Dr. Robert Hampton
E-mail: ryan.brady@emory.edu

I compare human and non-human primate cognition to better understand the evolution of memory systems. I use behavioral methods such as computer based testing to assess cognition. I am interested in how different forms of memory contribute to behavior, the relationship between working memory and attention, and cross-modal comparisons of memory representations.

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Emily Kathryn Brown

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Ph.D. candidate, Neuroscience and Animal Behavior, Emory University
Laboratory of Comparative Primate Cognition
Advisor: Dr. Robert Hampton
E-mail: emily.brown@emory.edu

I use a comparative approach to study the evolution of multiple memory systems and cognitive control. My previous research was focused on using a monkey model to understand the mechanisms that allow memory to be monitored and controlled. I am now working on similar questions with wild birds. Because cognitive processes are shaped by both long- and short-term environmental pressures, cognition is best understood with consideration of the natural context in which it occurs. We are developing automated behavioral techniques for addressing questions about memory systems in wild birds living in their natural habit. This year I am working as a guest in Dr. David Sherry’s lab at the Advanced Facility for Avian Research at Western University.

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Jaime Cadena-Valencia

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M.Sc.; Ph.D. Candidate. Biomedical Sciences Program.
Motor Planning and Sensory Systems Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Victor de Lafuente
E-mail: jaime@lafuentelab.org

I study the neural basis of timing in the millisecond range, particularly as it serves motor behavior. My long-term goal is to understand the computations the brain executes to estimate time intervals and how that information is implemented in the motor system to anticipate changes in the environment. I perform electrophysiological recordings in behaving monkeys to determine how populations of neurons encode and use information about time.

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Kelly K. Chong

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BSc; Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student
Computational Neuroethology Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Robert Liu
Email: kchong@gatech.edu

I study the effect of experience and hormones on vocalization sound processing in the mouse maternal model, specifically investigating changes in the electrophysiological properties of the auditory cortex following social experience. My research goals are to understand how sound representations and sound categories emerge in the hierarchical processing of auditory information within the cortex during learning, and how hormones may play a role in enhancing auditory learning. I employ a combination of electrophysiological and immunohistochemical, imaging techniques in my experiments, including single unit recording, voltage-sensitive or calcium imaging, and optogenetics.

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Cynthia De León Andrez

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Biomedical Sciences PhD student
Neurophysiology Systems in Primates Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Hugo Merchant Nancy
E-mail: cidelan@gmail.com

After earning my BSc in Biology I began work investigating the neural circuits related to perception and action. I am characterizing the pathways involved in audiomotor processing in primates. I use a combination of behavioral psychophysics tests, magnetic resonance imaging, and histology to collect converging evidence from rats, monkeys, and people.

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Jessica Dugan

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Ph.D. student, Cognition and Development, Emory University
Bauer Memory at Emory Lab
Advisor: Dr. Patricia Bauer
E-mail: jessica.dugan@emory.edu

Jessica graduated from the Honors College at the College of Charleston in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a focus in behavioral neuroscience. She joined the Bauer lab in the fall of 2014. Broadly speaking, she is interested in the development of semantic memory in both humans and nonhuman primates. She is particularly fascinated by generative processes that allow for extension of knowledge and the role that metacognition plays in these processes. She studies these processes in school-aged children and adults using both behavioral and eye-tracking techniques. As a Mechanisms of Learning NRSA Fellow, she collaborates with Dr. Rob Hampton, and through this collaboration she is extending her work on self-generation and metacognition to rhesus monkeys using computerized cognitive testing.

https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/bauerlab/

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Charles S. Ferris

Charles Ferris

Ph.D. Candidate, Cognition and Development, Emory University
Hamann Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Stephan Hamann
Email: csferri@emory.edu

Charlie comes to Emory after completing a Master’s Degree in experimental psychology at Saint Jospeh’s University studying neuropsychology of concussion. His current research interests are focused on an examination of autobiographical memory using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), patient populations with surgical lesions to the temporal lobe, and big data analytical approaches. He is an Emory Mechanisms of Learning Dean’s Catalyst Fellow, and likes long walks on the beach, puns, and orthogonality in his variables of interest.

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Pamela García Saldivar

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Neurosciences PhD Student
Neurophysiology Systems in Primates Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Hugo Merchant Nancy
E-mail: np.pam.garcia@gmail.com

My research addresses the question of how learning modifies neural connectivity in the mammalian brain. I study the neural mechanisms of temporal processing in the sub-second range in humans and nonhuman primates. I evaluate longitudinal changes in grey and the white matter structure related following intensive behavioral training using structural magnetic resonance techniques.

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Arturo González Isla

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PhD candidate
Neuronal Networks Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Fernando Peña-Ortega
E-mail: arturogonzalezisla@gmail.com

I study how cerebral rhythms activate cellular and molecular pathways that change the anatomy and physiology of the brain in a long-lasting manner. My current research project is focused on how exercise might be used therapeutically to change hippocampal rhythms and prevent the pathologies of Alzheimer´s Disease (AD). Working with AD rodent models, I use behavioral paradigms, in vivo electrophysiological recordings and in vitro and western blot analyses. These techniques allow me to identify the role of protein kinases on the cellular pathways in Alzheimer´s Disease.

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Matt Graci

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Ph.D. candidate, Cognition and Development, Emory University
Family Narratives Lab
Advisor: Dr. Robyn Fivush
Email: M.e.graci@emory.edu

I am a 4th year graduate student in the Cognition and Development program at Emory University. In Dr. Robyn Fivush’s lab, my research focuses autobiographical memory with an emphasis on narrative, emotion-regulation, stress and coping, and attachment. Just as a sample of blood can be used to assess physiological and biochemical states, a person’s narrative can be used to examine their psychological state. I use two analytic methods to examine why there is an enduring association between linguistic patterns of expressing past memories and psychological health: 1) I hand code narratives using theoretically informed quantitative coding schemes; 2) Congruent with the aim of the T32 grant, I am starting to incorporate more machine learning tools, co-advised by Dr. Phil Wolff and Dr. Fivush, to discover unforeseen linguistic patterns that are also predictive of psychological health.

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Julia Hyland Bruno

Julia Hyland Bruno

Ph.D. candidate, Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, CUNY Graduate Center
Laboratory of Vocal Learning
Advisor: Dr. Ofer Tchernichovski
E-mail: jhylandbruno@gradcenter.cuny.edu

I study vocal learning in the zebra finch, with an organizing interest in the interplay between stability and flexibility during song development. In one part of my PhD research, I use controlled song learning experiments to investigate how adult song rhythms are incorporated into the developing vocalizations of young birds. A second project focuses on quantifying prosody-like features of song (rhythmic structures evident above the level of the imitated song motif) and testing their responsiveness to the social milieu.

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Elizabeth Illescas Huerta

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Ph.D. student, Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Cellular Physiology, UNAM
Neurobiology of Aversive Motivation Lab
Advisor: Dr. Francisco Sotres-Bayón
E-mail: startdark_3@hotmail.com

I study the brain mechanism involved in motivational conflict resolution where both appetitive and aversive stimuli compete for the behavior control. To do this, I have developed a motivational conflict task where rats are trained to approach a reward in spite of an aversive stimulus. Using pharmacologic manipulations, I assess which brain structures are necessary for the motivational conflict resolution. I focus on the role of the ventral striatum and medial prefrontal cortex that are involved in the processing of aversive and appetitive information.

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Frederik S. Kamps

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B.A., M.A., Cognition and Development Psychology PhD Student, Emory University
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Advisor: Dr. Daniel D. Dilks
E-Mail: fkamps@emory.edu

I study the functional organization of human visual cortex, and how that functional organization gets wired up in human development. In particular, my work explores the functional properties and origins of cortical regions selectively involved in perceiving places, or “scenes,” in order to understand how these regions support our impressive ability to navigate and categorize scenes, for example effortlessly discriminating a kitchen from a beach. To do so, I employ a variety of methods, including fMRI, TMS, and psychophysics in adults, as well as psychophysics in typically developing children and adults with Williams syndrome.

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Jillian Lauer

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Doctoral Student,  Cognition and Development, Emory University
Bauer Memory at Emory Lab
Advisor: Dr. Patricia Bauer
E-Mail: jillian.lauer@emory.edu

Jillian’s research focuses on the psychosocial factors that influence cognitive performance across the lifespan as well as the development of spatial and mathematical reasoning. She is particularly interested in the origins of individual and gender differences in spatial aptitude and their relation to educational outcomes. Her current interests include using behavioral, eye-tracking, and psychophysiological methods, along with meta-analytic techniques, to examine cognitive development in infants, school-aged children, and adults.

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Penélope Martínez Campos

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Biomedical Sciences PhD student
Brain Connectivity Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Luis Concha Loyola
E-mail: penelope.martinez.campos@comunidad.unam.mx

I study the neurobiological basis of human behavior. My research in evolution and human sexual selection lead to a focus in neurobiology. In my PhD work I use fMRI to study human brain responses to music. I will determine whether experience listening to music results in an increase in audio-motor integrations and supporting brain connectivity.

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Germán Mendoza-Martínez

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Biomedical Sciences PhD candidate
System Neurophysiology of Primates Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Hugo Merchant
E-mail: gm1079@yahoo.com.mx

I study the neurophysiological basis of time and space perception. I analyze the extracellular neural activity in the medial premotor cortex (MPC) of monkeys performing psychophysical tasks to determine the encoding properties of these neurons. We reason that if MPC participates in time and space processing then we will find neurons that encode the key temporal and spatial variables of the tasks in a way that relates to the monkey’s behavior. In addition, I am currently involved in the implementation of techniques for the high-density, semi-chronic recording of extracellular neural activity in behaving monkeys.

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Amielle Moreno

Amielle Moreno

Ph.D. Candidate, Neuroscience Program, Emory University
Computational Neuroethology Lab
Advisor: Dr. Robert Liu
E-Mail: amoren3@emory.edu

I study the effect of social experience and hormones on vocalization sound processing in the mouse maternal model, specifically investigating molecular changes associated with learning in auditory cortex. My research goals are to understand how the hormone estrogen enhances learning and memory of social auditory cues within the auditory cortex. I use immunohistochemistry, behavioral analysis and molecular techniques such as quantitative PCR to investigate the short and long term molecular changes in the auditory cortex in response to social auditory cues.

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Arthur (Rhett) Morrissette

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Neuroscience PhD Candidate
Computational Neuroscience Lab
Advisor: Dr. Dieter Jaeger
E-mail: arthur.morrissette@emory.edu

I study how a collection of sub-cortical nuclei called the basal ganglia modulate activtity in other brain regions to guide sensorimotor learning. In order to examine these complex brain circuits, I am using a combination of optogenetic, electrophysiological, and optical imaging approaches in animals learning to perform a sensorimotor behavioral task. My long term goal is to understand how the basal ganglia influences neural activity in the cortex and to investigate potential therapeutic targets to help patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, and other basal ganglia disorders.

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Víctor Olalde

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B.S.(Chem), M.S.(Neurobiology); Biomedical Sciences PhD student
Image Analysis Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Fernando Barrios
E-mail: vicmat005@gmail.com

I study empathy as a complex process that can be modified through learning. My work involves study of the cognitive regulation of empathy and identification of the neural correlates of empathy. I seek to identify changes in the brain networks of a population of humans with long-term empathy regulation training, using MRI as my main exploratory tool.

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María José Olvera Caltzontzin

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BS; Biomedical Sciences PhD student
Neurochemistry of Memory Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Maria Isabel Miranda
E-mail: olvera.mjoc@comunidad.unam.mx

I study how context modulates the way rodents learn about flavors, and the role of the insular cortex in this learning. One goal of my work is to understand why we keep on eating certain food in spite of aversive consequences. To address these questions I have developed a behavioral task in which flavor and context are learned together, and I am activating NMDA receptors to determine how the insular cortex might integrate information about context and flavor.

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Andrea Pack

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Ph.D. Candidate, Neuroscience, Emory University
Sober Lab
Advisor: Dr. Samuel J. Sober
Email: andrea.r.pack@emory.edu

I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2011 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and minors in Applied Mathematics and Dance. Before joining the Emory Neuroscience Graduate Program, I worked in Dr. Randy Nudo’s lab at University of Kansas Medical Center studying neural mechanisms underpinning plasticity following stroke and traumatic brain injury. I am a second year grad student in Dr. Sam Sober’s lab, which studies sensorimotor learning, specifically vocal behavior, in songbirds. My research focuses on how patterns of coordinated activity across multiple neurons and muscles emerge during the learning of a skilled behavior.

Lab Website: https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/soberlab/

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Ana Karen Pimentel Farfán

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Ph.D. Student, Biomedical Science
Neurophysiology of Habits Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Pavel E. Rueda Orozco
Email: akarem@comunidad.unam.mx

I study the participation of the sensorimotor cortex and the striatum in bimanual coordination. Because the striatum receives massive bilateral projections from the sensorimotor cortex it is a good candidate integrator of information essential for bimanual coordination. In Dr. Pavel Rueda’s lab, we have developed a bimanual coordination task for rats that allows us to precisely quantify the coordination and kinetics of the movement of both forelimbs. To determine the participation of sensorimotor cortex we evaluate the impact of discrete lesions on behavior. We will further explore the neural circuits underlying coordination using optogenetic and electrophysiological techniques.

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Ashley Prichard

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MA, Neuroscience and Animal Behavior PhD student
Canine Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Gregory Berns
E-mail: ashley.prichard@emory.edu

I study multi modal concept formation in nonhumans. My particular interest is the integration of olfactory information in conceptual behavior. My master’s research involved stimulus equivalence with olfactory stimuli in rats. I currently study canine multi modal concept formation using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in pet dogs.  I am also working on a project comparing dog and coyote white matter tracts through postmortem diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

Laboratory website: http://caninecognitiveneuro.wixsite.com/ccnl
Personal website: http://ashleyprichard.weebly.com/

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Raúl Rodríguez-Cruces

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MD PhD Candidate
Brain Connectivity Laboratory
Advisor: Luis Concha MD PhD
E-mail: raulrcruces@inb.unam.mx

I study cognitive impairment and brain connectivity in temporal lobe epilepsy. I use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate brain integrity in epilepsy longitudinally. In addition to using MRI, I also analyze a full neuropsychological assessment of patients to correlate cognitive performance with measures of structural integrity of the brain. My aim is to develop a model of temporal lobe epilepsy that identifies high risk cohorts and predicts clinical outcome. This model would help healthcare professionals provide personalized early treatment.

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Carlos Antonio Sahagún Pacheco

Carlos Sahagun Pacheco

MD, Neuroscience M.S. Student, Universidad de Guadalajara
Cortical Plasticity and Perceptual Learning Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Mario Treviño Villegas
E-mail: sahagun_p@hotmail.com

In our laboratory, we study the circuit mechanisms involved in mouse visual processing. They can be explored electrophysiologically but also with a wide variety of behavioral tests that range from sensory function to more complex behavior related to ‘cognition’ and ’emotionality’. We aim to make an assessment of the visual capacities of many mice, and to combine it with pharmacological manipulations to explore whether and how different circuits are involved in the procedural and visual components of a task.

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Karla Salgado-Puga

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BSc; Biomedical Sciences PhD candidate
Neuronal Networks Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Fernando Peña-Ortega
E-mail: salgadokg@yahoo.com

I study the cellular mechanisms underlying memory formation and how these processes are modified in pathological conditions. I focus on the molecular signaling pathways involved in memory deficits and neural network alterations in a rodent Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) model. My long-term goal is to understand the behavioral and electrophysiological changes induced by amyloid beta protein and to identify potential molecular targets for therapeutics. By using clinically available drugs in both in vivo behavioral measurements of memory and in vitro electrophysiological recordings, I assess the potential therapeutic effect of modulating ATP-sensitive potassium channels on AD.

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Itzamná Sánchez-Moncada

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BSc., M.Sc., Biomedical Sciences PhD student
Neurophysiology of Perception Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Hugo Merchant
E-mail: ic.sanchez.moncada@gmail.com

I study the neural substrates of time perception and the temporal control of behavior. I am working to determine whether training Parkinson’s disease patients in temporal discrimination tasks can improve impaired gait. In particular, I am testing whether decreases in variability in temporal discrimination reduce variability in gait timing. I measure patient’s improvement with the use of biomechanical analysis and fMRI to assess changes in the activity of the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamic circuit and the cerebellum.

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Varun Saravanan

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Ph.D. Candidate, Neuroscience, Emory University
Sober Lab
Advisor: Dr. Samuel J. Sober
Email: varun.saravanan@emory.edu

I am a 4th year Neuroscience graduate student at Emory University currently pursuing my doctoral research in the lab of Dr. Samuel Sober. My research interests lie in uncovering the mechanisms underlying sensorimotor learning. Specifically, I am interested in how sensory errors versus reward based errors are differentially processed by the brain in order to drive learning. To understand this, I use a combination of computational models of learning in addition to behavioral studies with pharmacological manipulations to study sensorimotor learning in the Bengalese finch.

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Robert Thorstad

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Ph.D. Candidate, Cognition and Development, Emory University
Mind and Language Laboratory
Advisor: Dr. Phillip Wolff
Email: robert.thorstad@emory.edu

I’m a 3rd year graduate student in the Cognition & Development Program at Emory University. Broadly, I use “big data” techniques to higher-order cognitive processes in human adults, especially future thinking and decision-making. As a Dean’s Catalyst Award recipient, I am working on expanding my work to a collaboration with computer science researchers at Emory. More on this work at the Forum!

Lab website: http://psychology.emory.edu/cognition/wolff/main2.html

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Alison Weiss

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BA; Psychology Ph.D. student
Bachevalier Lab
Advisor: Jocelyne Bachevalier
E-mail: alison.weiss@emory.edu

I study the cognitive mechanisms that are important for learning and memory, and how the neuroanatomical basis of these psychological processes change across the lifespan. I focus on the development of memory processes in the medial temporal lobe, with a particular emphasis on the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex. My work will help us to identify causes of memory deficits in individuals with temporal lobe dysfunction, as is seen in cases of autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Faculty Participants

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Patricia Bauer

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Ph.D. Developmental Psychology, Miami University
Bauer Memory at Emory Lab
E-mail: pjbauer@emory.edu

Patricia Bauer received her Ph.D. from Miami University in 1985 and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego from 1985 to 1989. She was on the faculty of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota from 1989 to 2005. After two years in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, she joined the faculty of Emory University in 2007, where she is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Psychology. Her research focuses on the development of memory from infancy through childhood, with special emphasis on the determinants of remembering and forgetting; links between social, cognitive, and neural developments and age-related changes in autobiographical or personal memory; and self-derivation of new factual knowledge through integration of separate yet related episodes of new learning. She is the Co-Director of the National Institutes of Health T32 “Mechanisms of Learning across Development and Species.”

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Robert R. Hampton

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Ph.D. Psychology, University of Toronto
Laboratory of Comparative Primate Cognition
E-mail: robert.hampton@emory.edu

Our lab studies memory and cognition in nonhuman primates. Our experiments help define the relationship between human and nonhuman memory, and identify the neural substrates of memory. Our comparative work addresses questions about the evolution of memory and cognition, while our basic neuroscience research contributes to the knowledge base needed to develop treatments for diseases affecting memory and cognition in humans. Our laboratory has done a lot of work on metamemory and metacognition in monkeys. More recently we have focused on studies of the mental representation of sequences and other ordered stimuli. We have recently initiated a new research program addressing cognition in wild birds. I co-direct, with Dr. Patricia Bauer, the National Institutes of Health T32 “Mechanisms of Learning across Development and Species.”

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Joseph R. Manns

Joe Manns

Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Manns Laboratory
E-mailjmanns@emory.edu

I earned my Ph.D. in Psychology in 2002 from University of California San Diego and then did a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston University from 2002-2007. I was hired by the Department of Psychology at Emory University in 2007. My research has focused on the neurobiology of declarative memory and has included studies in both humans and rats. In particular, what intrigues me is the challenge of connecting declarative memory from cells to circuits to cognition. Related to the training grant, I have directly mentored seven graduate students (three have now obtained their Ph.D.) and have served on advisory or dissertation committees for dozens more.
http://psychology.emory.edu/labs/manns/

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Hugo Merchant

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Ph.D. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Laboratory of System Neurophysiology
E-mail: hugomerchant@unam.mx

I studied the neurophysiology of tactile categorization in diverse cortical areas and the basal ganglia with Ranulfo Romo before doing my postdoc with Apostolos Georgopoulos at the University of Minnesota. I opened my laboratory at the Instituto de Neurobiología in 2005. Our research is focused on understanding the neural basis of time quantification in the range of hundreds of milliseconds. We use diverse methodologies in humans and monkeys, including multielectrode and multisite extracellular recordings in monkeys, psychophysics in humans and monkeys, pharmacology of the dopaminergic system in monkeys, and fMRI and DTI in both primate species.

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