Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory

The cognitive and affective neuroscience laboratory serves a group researching the mental processes subserving reading, emotion, decision-making, memory and changes in conscious states (e.g., hypnosis).

We utilise central (EEG) as well as somatic psychophysiological measures in conjunction with behavioural and phenomenological data to investigate the complex patterns of spatial and temporal organization which reflect implementation of these processes in neural systems.

The centerpiece of the laboratory is a Neuroscan SynAmps2 64 channel EEG system with two DELL Precision T7500V workstations for both stimulus presentation and data recording.

The lab is also equipped with a 40 channel Neuroscan NuAmps EEG system and a 16-channel BioPac amplifier system for recording heart rate, EOG, GSR/SCR and EMG. Systems level cognitive and affective neuroscience stands at the intersection between the traditional human sciences and cellular and molecular research programs. An important goal for us is to act as a bridge allowing researchers and students in Psychology at the University of New England to develop programs which link their interests across these multiple levels of inquiry.

Current projects

Affective learning and decision making: An experimental paradigm utilizing a version of Damasio's classic gambling task is used to identify functional brain processes associated with preconscious affective discrimination in decision making.

Enumeration and working memory: A series of studies which utilize time and time/frequency analyses to fractionate functional sub components of working memory performance on a speeded counting task, the 'enumeration task'.

Mismatch Negativity: This study explores the different roles of segmental (phonemic), sub segmental and supra segmental (prosodic) features of linguistic stimuli in reading disability.

Hypnotic dissociation of anterior systems of conflict monitoring and cognitive control: Conscious control of cognitive processes requires flexible changes in the activation of task and goal representations in response to the feedback from error and conflict monitoring systems. These processes are intimately linked with the functional integration of specialized regions within the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex. Hypnosis produces a remarkable tolerance for experiences and beliefs which conflict with objective reality. One way it may produce this effect is to reduce the ability to utilize error or conflict related feedback signals within the brain. We are investigating the impact of hypnosis (in people of low and high hypnotic susceptibility) on the functional integration of these brain regions. We test this idea using the error related negativity Ne and the error related positivity Pe (components in event related EEG) during a Stroop response conflict paradigm to index the operation of functionally and anatomically distinct elements of this system. This research seeks to extend our knowledge of the neural bases of cognitive control as much as of hypnotic alterations in conscious functioning