NSF Grant Research Takes Flight / Cognitive Neuroscience Minor Announced

Shortly after Spring Break, an interdisciplinary team of more than 15 CBU undergraduates began measuring their peers’ brain responses to emotional words and text shortcuts. The research project, “Judging Emotion in Words Brainwave Study,” is the first to use CBU’s new electroencephalogram (EEG) system, which was funded by a grant awarded to CBU from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The study was designed by David Kovaz, a doctoral student in cognitive psychology at the University of Memphis, and is being directed by Dr. Jeff Sable, an assistant professor in the CBU Department of Behavioral Sciences and the principle investigator of the NSF grant.

Oddball

Click Image To See Animation

The EEG system is something you might see at a large research university. What is unique about the research at CBU is that it is being driven by undergraduate students, rather than by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The students are tag-teaming to collect data for up to 12 hours per day. Some students will also be involved in analyzing the data, which can produce animations such as the one included here.

Ultimately, Dr. Sable hopes the research—the current study and many to follow—will be presented at conferences and even published in scientific journals. Additional studies are planned that will examine the effects of emotion on attention and distractibility, as well as studies of interactions between emotion and memory. All studies will involve measuring brain activity in participants.

To take advantage of this new system and related resources, the Department of Behavioral Sciences will offer a minor in cognitive neuroscience, beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year. The minor will require courses in which students learn about various measures of brain structure and brain activity, as well as peripheral measures that reflect mental processing. In many cases, students will learn by doing—actually measuring these signals in themselves and each other. Students in the minor will also propose and conduct research projects.

There are only a handful of schools in the U.S. that offer an undergraduate minor in cognitive neuroscience. Of those, CBU is the only one in the Mid-South and ours is one of the more hands-on and research-oriented programs.