Drexel’s Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program has clusters of emphasis in cognitive electrophysiology (Jacobs, Kounios, Liang) and computational modeling (Liang, Mirman, Salvucci, and Sims). However, faculty participating in the program span a range of research methods and areas of interest. Core ACBS faculty are listed below, with links to their websites. Other Psychology Department faculty members participate in the ACBS program on an ad hoc basis.
ACBS Core Faculty
John Kounios, PhD
The main focus of my research is the neural basis of creativity, insight, and problem solving. I specialize in high-density electroencephalogram (EEG) recording of brain activity and, through collaborations, also use transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Other research interests include cognitive enhancement and neuromarketing.
Dan Mirman, PhD
I study the dynamics of language and cognitive processes with a focus on the phonological, semantic, and cognitive control aspects of spoken word comprehension. Research in my laboratory relies on converging evidence from multiple different methods, including behavioral and eye-tracking experiments, computational modeling, and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We are particularly interested in individual differences (among typical adults, induced by neurological damage such as stroke, and due to typical and atypical development) because they provide unique insights into how the cognitive system is organized. We use PDP/connectionist computational models to concretely instantiate and test theories and to make new predictions.
Chris Sims, PhD
My research uses experimental and computational modeling approaches to understand how humans learn, act, and make decisions in a world filled with uncertainty. In reaching for an object, the brain must compensate for time-delayed and uncertain sensory signals, and use this information to control a noisy and error-prone motor system. When we briefly look at a photograph, only a limited amount of information can be stored in working memory; as a result, the brain must be selective in what information is stored, and how it is encoded. These examples illustrate that both motor control and visual memory are low-level forms of decision-making under uncertainty. I am interested in studying how these low-level sensorimotor decisions are carried out, and how they relate to higher-level cognitive decisions under uncertainty. I am also interested in understanding how training, aging, and cognitive impairments influence our ability to adapt to the demands of a constantly-changing and uncertain world.
Fenqing (Zoe) Zhang, PhD
My research interests lie in neuroimaging data analysis and quantitative research methods including hierarchical models, multivariate analysis, generalized linear models, data mining, and Bayesian modeling. I am particularly passionate about statistical modeling and methodological development for social, behavioral, and biomedical related problems. My outside collaborations include the Communication Neural Systems Research Group in the School of Communication and the Applied Neuromarketing Group at Northwestern University. Some of my working topics include brain decoding, fMRI data analysis, segmentation of MRI images with white matter lesions, imaging mass spectrometry data biomarker selection and classification. My Drexel collaborations include projects related to treatment development for weight loss maintenance and eating disorders.
Additional Psychology Faculty
Nancy Raitano Lee, PhD
As a child clinical psychologist working within a developmental cognitive neuroscience framework, my research seeks to identify neuropsychological, neurobiological, and genetic contributions to typical and atypical cognitive development through studies of youth with developmental learning disorders and those with typical development. Much of my work over the past several years has focused on three interrelated areas of investigation: (1) refining descriptions of verbal memory and executive functions in Down syndrome, (2) studying the developing brain in Down syndrome, and (3) investigating genetic and neuroanatomical correlates of verbal and executive abilities as well as autistic symptoms in youth with typical development and those with sex chromosome aneuploidies.
Michael Lowe, PhD
My lab conducts research on the prevention and treatment of eating disorders and obesity. I am also interested in biobehavioral factors that predispose some individuals to develop these conditions. I have conducted fMRI and EEG studies to better understand brain processes (e.g., reward, inhibition, impulsivity) that are influential in the development and treatment of obesity and eating disorders.
Maria T. Schultheis, PhD
I am interested in the use of innovative technologies for meeting the clinical needs of individual with neurological compromise. Much of our work is focused on using virtual reality simulation, neuropsychological measures and portable imaging systems (i.e., fNIRS). I work with cognitively impaired populations—traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, dementia—in order to understand the effects of neurological involvement on functions, such as driving, returning to work and everyday activities of living. Our work intersects psychology, biomedical engineering, transportation, and rehabilitation medicine.
Additional Participating Faculty
Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design
College of Engineering
Eugenia Victoria Ellis, PhD, AIA
As an architect dedicated to re-envisioning the constructed world, I study the visual and non-visual effects of light on design. My work focuses on natural light and health, spatial visualization and three-dimensional imagining, and visual perception and altered states of perception, such as blindness and dementia. At intersections of nature, the built environment and behavior, I investigate (eco)logical building systems, architectural theory and wellbeing with the goal of creating frameworks for the design of sustainable buildings at the nexus of health, energy and technology. My research is interdisciplinary and includes collaborators outside of design in fields such as engineering, information science, biomedical engineering, and the health professions.
Frank Lee, PhD
Frank Lee is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Computer Science with joint appointments in the Department of Media Art and Design and in the Department of Psychology at Drexel University. Lee is also the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Drexel Game Design Program, which has been ranked as one of the Top 10 Game Design Programs in United States and Canada by The Princeton Review, and the Replay Lab, a collaborative research and education lab in game design and development at Drexel University.
College of Engineering
Youngmoo Kim, PhD
My interests focus on the machine understanding of sound (particularly music), which includes research projects in human perception and cognition. My research group, the Music & Entertainment Technology Laboratory (MET-lab), actively explores the relationships between sound, emotion, and creative expression as related to both music perception and performance. I am also very interested in human-machine interfaces and robotics, and we develop computational tools and technologies to facilitate expressive interaction. My students and I are also heavily engaged in K-12 outreach programs using music technology to enhance engineering, science, and mathematics education, with a particular emphasis in fostering creativity and innovation at all levels of learning.
Department of Computer Science
My primary interests lie in the intersection of cognition and computation, specifically how to represent cognitive processes in terms of computational simulations. I am especially interested in human multitasking -- how people perform two tasks at the same time, and how to understand their behavior and predict when two given tasks might be easier or harder to perform in a multitask setting. For example, our laboratory has done a number of studies and simulations of driver distraction and task interruption; this work has attempted to bridge the gap between basic laboratory studies of multitasking and complex applied tasks as they arise in real-world multitasking contexts.
School of Biomedical Engineering
My research lies in the general area of computational and cognitive neuroscience. I am interested in understanding the relationship of neuronal processes, circuits, and computations to cognitive functions. The major thrust of my work is computational. I use computational approaches to try to forge links between disparate findings from normal and abnormal brain function. My research efforts have been directed toward the development and application of new conceptual and technical tools such as Granger causality for neuroscience. I'm currently focused on a systematic and quantitative study of computational problems in visual selective attention, and on understanding how perception emerges from neural population activity.
My research interests include: (a) processes and mechanisms involved in the acquisition, retention, and transfer of cognitive and motor skills; (b) neural plasticity as a function of practicing tasks, (c) attentional, and neural mechanisms involved in brain-computer interface research employing biofeedback in learning paradigms, and (d) impact of motor learning principles and functional electrical stimulation in novel training programs for children with cerebral palsy. Currently I am funded to examine the neural mechanisms of contextual interference when learning computer tasks and brain-computer interfaces with the application of biofeedback in a learning paradigm.
College of Medicine
Wen-Jun Gao, PhD
Research Summary - Cerebral cortex, especially prefrontal cortex, is the most complex brain region in the central nervous system. Elucidating its diverse functions represents a major challenge in neurobiology. We are interested in the neuronal mechanisms underlying the synaptic signaling and monoaminergic regulation in the prefrontal cortical circuitry, as well as the critical issues involving neuropathology of mental disorders and other neurological diseases. Specifically, we are taking the advantages of in vivo and in vitro preparations to examine the neuronal signaling in both normal animals and clinical models of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and ADHD. Work in my laboratory is currently focused in the following projects: 1) monoaminergic (dopamine and norepinephrine) regulation of synaptic transmissions and local circuitry in the prefrontal cortex; 2) postnatal development of prefrontal local circuitry; 3) the roles of NMDA receptors in the schizophrenia pathological process; and 4) psychostimulant actions on the synaptic plasticity and trafficking of glutamatergic receptors. Our research involves a variety of morphological, physiological, pharmacological, and molecular approaches designed to elucidate the synaptic mechanisms underlying the prefrontal functions. Morphological studies include single-cell labeling, neuronal reconstruction, and immunocytochemistry. Physiological, pharmacological and molecular approaches include multiple whole-cell recordings, drug applications, western blotting, and real-time PCR in fresh brain tissues, acute brain slices, and cell culture preparations. These approaches are mutually supportive with a comprehensive integration across disciplines.
Jeff Oristaglio, PhD
"Cognitive flexibility" refers to the general capacity to implement new behavioral strategies when current strategies fail to achieve desired results. For animals, this capacity is essential for survival. For humans, it is required for solving novel problems and for actively seeking out new experiences and opportunities to learn. Oftentimes, changes in behavioral strategy require shifts in attention from non-essential aspects of the environment to those that are of importance in implementing and testing newly-formulated plans. Unfortunately, deficits in selective attention and cognitive flexibility are hallmarks of various psychological and neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and autism. Therefore, understanding the physiological processes that govern behavioral flexibility is of obvious importance to treating individuals with these disorders. Work in my lab is focused on developing novel experimental paradigms with rodents to examine the physiological processes underlying selective attention and the representation and selection of behavioral strategies. Our approach involves the recording of neural activity in the frontal cortex of awake, behaving subjects as they perform tasks requiring them to shift their attention to various characteristics of visual and auditory stimuli in order to acquire rewards. Eventually, we hope to use our findings to help guide the development of treatments that can enhance attentional capacity and behavioral flexibility in cognitively-challenged and normal individuals.
Barry D. Waterhouse, PhD
The primary focus of my laboratory is to understand the role of the central noradrenergic and serotonergic systems in brain function and behavior. Our studies employ a broad spectrum of neuroanatomical, behavioral, and electrophysiological techniques including rodent performance in sustained and flexible attention tasks, single and ensemble neuron recording from anesthetized and waking animals, computer- based acquisition and analysis of spike train data, and mapping of monoamine projections from source nuclei using anterograde and retrograde tracer substances. The underlying theme of this work is that synaptically released norepinephrine and serotonin operate as complementary neuromodulatory substances, which regulate the responsiveness of individual neurons, local circuits, and neural networks to synaptic inputs. As such, these systems appear to play a significant role in the ability of the organism to orient, attend, and respond appropriately to novel or salient stimuli from the sensory surround. Clinical implications of this work which have led to related experimental studies are that these monoaminergic systems may underlie some of the behavioral actions of psychostimulant drugs such as methylphenidate and cocaine.