Congratulations, Jessica Flannery! She has been awarded Edward and Rita Girden Cognitive Neuroscience Scholarship of $1500, which will supplement Jessica’s travel to the 2016 Human Brain Mapping conference this June in Geneva, Switzerland, where Jessica will be presenting a poster entitled, “Habenula activity following positive and negative feedback among abstinent cigarette smokers.”

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The Neuroinformatics and Brain Connectivity (NBC) Laboratory focuses on characterizing activity within and between brain regions among healthy individuals and those diagnosed with neuropsychiatric disorders. Research in the Lab is centered around magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with emphasis on neuroimaging data analysis tools, the impact of drug abuse on human brain function, and the brain mechanisms associated with student learning during STEM training.

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The Neuroinformatics and Brain Connectivity Laboratory is always looking for exceptional students and personnel to join the team. We are still accepting applications from undergraduate students to work on various projects and from graduate students for the upcoming 2016-2017 year!

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Current Projects

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this project aims to gather and assess evidence of learning and knowledge organization, as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), throughout university-level physics environments. This project was designed to extend the theories and research-base behind Modeling Instruction, a well-established curriculum intervention in physics. With the use of neuroimaging, we can understand how learning-environments drive the functional organization of large-scale brain networks in physics students. Our work provides deeper insight into the ways in which students learn physics, with implications for other STEM disciplines.

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Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the NIH, this project utilizes fMRI to clarify how HIV infection and cannabis use (both alone and in combination) impact brain function. Lagging behind rapid changes to state laws, societal views, and medical practice is scientific investigation of cannabis’s impact on brain function, especially in patients with HIV/AIDS. We are addressing this knowledge gap by using advanced fMRI techniques to rigorously assess brain activity at multiple levels. Clarifying the impact of HIV infection and cannabis use on the brain is critically important for developing treatments to improve patients’ mental functions, identifying poor candidates for medical marijuana, and providing patients, healthcare providers, and policymakers with scientific information allowing for informed decision-making regarding cannabis use.

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Traditional functional neuroimaging meta-analyses focus on assessing convergence for a set of studies that examine similar paradigms or cognitive processes of interest. Meta-analytic connectivity modeling (MACM) refers to an application of the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis method that examines task-dependent functional connectivity for a user-defined region of interest. In MACM, BrainMap is searched for all experiments that feature at least one focus of activation within the seed region, and ALE is performed over all foci of the retrieved experiments to quantify their convergence. Significant convergence outside the seed indicates the above-chance recruitment of additional areas whenever the seed was active, i.e., significant co-activation. A recent extension of the MACM approach is its application to connectivity-based parcellation (CBP) as an approach to identify functionally homogenous sub-clusters of voxels within a seed region. MACM is performed individually for all voxels in the seed, and the resultant voxel-wise connectivity patterns are clustered to identify groups of voxels demonstrating similar co-activation connectivity. Voxels are clustered into distinct sub-regions of the original seed based on this information.

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Data sharing efforts within the human neuroimaging community are rapidly growing, driven equally by NIH and NSF policies and a new generation of scientists who are committed to sharing data thereby facilitating large-scale knowledge discovery in the brain. These data sharing efforts have highlighted the need for standardized terminologies within neuroimaging data descriptions. Standardized terminologies can serve as a common vocabulary for data sharing, but once the effort is begun to define the terms clearly, the next step is defining how the concepts those terms represent are related. The ability to describe the cognitive paradigms used during the behavioral portions of a neuroimaging study is critical for sharing data and integrating information across experiments. Cognitive paradigms are not standardized; they are infinitely flexible, and can vary by choice of stimuli, timing, the instructions given to the subject, and the responses the subject is expected to make. Current work is being carried out to develop the Cognitive Paradigm Ontology (CogPO), which is designed to promote automated annotation and reasoning across disparate data sources.

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Recent Publications

Laird AR, Riedel MC, Sutherland MT, Eickhoff SB, Ray KL, Uecker AM, Fox PM, Turner JA, Fox PT. Neural architecture underlying classification of face perception paradigms. Neuroimage, In Press.


Riedel MC, Ray KL, Dick AS, Sutherland MT, Hernandez Z, Fox PM, Eickhoff SB, Fox PT, Laird AR. Meta-analytic connectivity and behavioral parcellation of the human cerebellum. NeuroImage, In Press. pubmed-icon-over110px-Pdf_icon


Sutherland MT, Ray KL, Riedel MC, Yanes JA, Stein EA, Laird AR. Neurobiological Impact of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Agonists: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-Analysis of Pharmacologic Neuroimaging Studies. Biological Psychiatry, In Press. pubmed-icon-over110px-Pdf_icon