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Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. It combines physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology, cytology, mathematical modeling, and psychology to understand the fundamental and emergent properties of neurons and neural circuits.

In the context of psychology, neuroscience is an approach to studying the brain using techniques such as cognitive assessment, neuroimaging, psychophysiology, neuropsychopharmacology ...  Therefore, it is often combined with research content areas to describe several fields of research, such as cognitive, affective, behavioral, developmental, health and clinical neuroscience. The research of our faculty is strongly represented in each of these areas. Neuroscience research in the Department of Psychology includes diverse interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the biological basis of mental phenomena and clinical disorders. Topics of research range from microscopic neurochemical processes to the functional organization of large-scale cerebral systems. We have extensive expertise in the fields of Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience and Social / Affective Neuroscience.

Faculty

Click to expand each of the below faculty members' research focus, program affiliation, and lab information in the Neuroscience research area.

Brett Clementz

  • Brett Clementz has two general goals. The first is to understand how accurate sensory processing is maintained within the context of changing environmental circumstances. The second is to understand neurobiological distinctions between different subgroups of brain diseases called the psychoses (defined clinically by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive disturbance), which have demonstrated, for the majority of cases to have a substantial genetic diathesis. For Dr. Clementz, the first goal, which often involves the study of the healthy brain, informs the second goal of understanding deviations in brain functions associated with manifestation of psychosis in order to facilitate improved diagnosis and treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. The methodological core of Dr. Clementz’ research involves use of simple and complex behavioral paradigms combined with use of neuroimaging technologies including electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He uses sophisticated approaches to analyzing data collected with these technologies and is known for developing innovative analysis techniques. He and Dr. McDowell co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

Brian Haas

  • Brian Haas is focused on understanding individual differences in social and affective functioning in humans by using a multi-modal approach. He is interested in understanding the pathways in the brain, social behavior and culture. In his laboratory, a multi-modal approach is used that includes genetics, brain-imaging, personality assessment, social-behavioral experiments and cultural assessments. The primary objective of this research is to better understand the factors contributing to, and associated with, individual differences in the way people think and process their social world.

Billy Hammond

  • Billy Hammond studies how lifestyle, primarily dietary, influences both the development of degenerative disease and the normal function of the central nervous system. For example, he uses psychophysical methods to measure the concentration of the dietary carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin within the fovea (termed macular pigment or the macula lutea) and have related those pigments to various aspects of retinal and brain function.

Philip Holmes

  • Philip Holmes studies neurobiological mechanisms responsible for cognitive, motivational, and emotional functions, with a focus on brain catecholamine and peptide neurotransmitters.  This research involves a combination of molecular, genetic, pharmacological, and behavioral approaches in rodent models. His research has revealed the essential role noradrenergic systems play in mediating the beneficial effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity and stress resilience.  He also studies how endocrine and immune systems impact brain catecholamines to influence learning, memory, and emotional behavior.  

Jennifer McDowell

  • Jennifer McDowell studies the nature of cognitive control. Effective cognitive control mediates important decisions on a daily basis. Healthy people have wide variations in their ability to invoke cognitive control, but specific subgroups have far greater problems with this behavioral regulation mechanism. Cognitive control deficits occur in many clinical groups, ranging from children who are obese to adults with psychiatric disorders, and especially those with psychotic disorders. Dr. McDowell integrates behavioral and multi-modal brain imaging methods (f/MRI, DTI, EEG, MEG) to provide a comprehensive understanding of cognitive problems. An important goal is to determine the extent to which cognitive control is plastic, and particularly how it may be enhanced. This is highly relevant for populations at risk, and also relevant for people who do not have clinical diagnoses, but may be at risk by virtue of being genetically related to someone with a psychiatric disorder, being obese, or having other characteristics that may predispose one to improperly modulated cognitive control. She and Dr. Clementz co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

L. Stephen Miller

  • L. Stephen Miller works to understand central nervous system mechanisms related to cognition seen in aging, aging pathology, and traumatic brain injury. This is accomplished through the use of traditional neuropsychological paradigms, structural and functional magnetic resonance brain imaging (MRI/fMRI), and cognitive intervention. Special foci of this work include geriatric aging and functional independence, aging psychopathology, concussive injury, and evaluation of data validity.

Dean Sabatinelli

  • Dean Sabatinelli is interested in defining the brain mechanisms involved in the discrimination of emotional stimuli, and specifically how the recruited cortical and subcortical structures are orchestrated in real time. In addition to basic science, a major goal is to understand how these dynamic mechanisms contribute to disorders of emotion.

Greg Strauss

  • Greg Strauss focuses on the phenomenology, etiology, assessment, and treatment of negative symptoms (i.e., anhedonia, avolition, asociality, blunted affect, alogia) in individuals with schizophrenia and youth at clinical high-risk for psychosis (i.e., those with prodromal syndromes). He uses a multi-modal approach to studying affective and reward processing mechanisms underlying negative symptoms, including EEG/ERPs, eye tracking, digital phenotyping, and fMRI.  

Lawrence Sweet

  • Lawrence Sweet integrates multimodal neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessments to examine brain-behavior relationships in clinical and at-risk populations (e.g., addictions, cardiovascular disease, early life adversity, aging). The Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory (CNS Lab) specializes in experimental design, and data acquisition, analyses, and interpretation for studies that employ functional magnetic resonance imaging, structural morphometry, and white matter lesion quantification. The CNS Lab is responsible for data analyses and consultation for several local and multi-site NIH-funded research studies.
    • Program affiliation: Clinical Psychology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Neuroscience
    • Laboratory: Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory

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