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Department of Cognitive Science

Cognition in Action Facility Researchers

Cognition in Action Oversight Committee

Dr Matthew Finkbeiner (Chair) - My research focuses primarily on nonconscious processes. To investigate this, I use the masked priming paradigm with several different dependent measures, including reaction times, ERPs, TMS and (mostly these days) motion capture. The action lab is ideally suited for my research program because in it we have motion capture, EEG and TMS systems.

Associate Professor Mark Williams - My research focuses primarily on the cognitive and neural mechanisms involved in face and facial expression perception. I am also interested in other aspects of perception such as the way we process other objects and complex scenes. I use neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and simultaneous MEG/EEG to explore questions of the location and timing of neural events. I also work with neuropsychological patients and healthy individuals using visual psychophysics.

Dr. Paul Sowman - My research interest is in how the nervous system controls movement. I have a particular interest in motor control of the jaw and mouth. In my research I use electromyography (EMG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (EEG) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG). I am currently investigating sensorimotor integration in stuttering.

Cognition in Action Researchers

Regine Zopf - The aim of my research is to investigate the influence of information regarding body ownership for perceptual and motor processes. Body ownership information enables us to distinguish our body from other bodies, and the sense of body ownership can be disturbed in neurological disorders (e.g. somatoparaphrenia). Research so far has focused on possible cues that may inform body ownership; the role of basic sensory and sensori-motor processes that underlie and are affected by such cues remain however unclear. One important question of my research is, if body ownership cues modulate the way our brain uses visual information regarding the seen hand for action.

Cognition in Action Student Researchers

Irene Chork - I am studying non-consciously processed stimuli through the use of masked primes and continuous motion tracking. This allows us to see reaching movements that reflect underlying cognitive processes. Past research has examined priming as information integrated and thus modulating a conscious target response. I will look at whether these non-consciously processed primes can elicit an overt behavioural response independent of the target.

Longjiao (Caroline) Sui - I am interested in exploring the advantages of bilingualism on non-linguistic tasks. The action lab provides me with the opportunity to investigate the advantages of bilingual over monolingual with high accuracy.

Manjunath Narra - My thesis focuses on exploring the effect of bilingualism on non-linguistic response conflict tasks i.e., a speeded response to one stimulus dimension, while ignoring another distracting stimulus dimension. The bilingualism literature reports a bilingual advantage in terms of reaction time and interference effect on these tasks. However, it is currently unclear how response conflict mechanisms differ between bilinguals and monolinguals. The main research question in my thesis is to understand the temporal dynamics of conflict resolution when subjects are engaged in a conflict task. I will investigate how the language groups differ when faced with conflict. I use refined temporal measures such as reaching responses and TMS motor evoked potentials to track conflict resolution processes for bilinguals and monolinguals.

Samantha Parker – My research investigates the perceptual processes that influence our interpretation of video and visual evidence and the impact this can have on legal decision making. Past research has demonstrated that video confessions shot from particular camera perspectives erroneously impact on the judgments mock jurors make as to the voluntariness of the confession and the suspect’s subsequent guilt. I am interested in examining the attentional and perceptual mechanisms that influence the relationship between video evidence and legal judgment.

Usha Sivaranjani Sista - I am interested in motor cognition. I am looking at the phenomenon of interference effect in arm reaching movements. I am currently studying what causes the effect by looking at arm movement trajectories using motion capture devices such as the Optotrak system. I intend to use other systems such as the minibird, and the cyberglove, in order to predict a model for the interference effect as well as test the predictions.

Cognition in Action Alumni

Bhuvanesh Awasthi - My broader research interests lie in exploring the cognitive aspects of brain-body-environment that bring about perceptual experience. There is growing consensus that perception is a parallel, distributed and interactive process. At the Action facility, I use visually guided reaching as a continuous behavioural measure to study perceptual processing of faces. Rather than several sequential stages, as suggested by early researchers, it seems likely that multiple, competing, parallel processes are involved in face processing. For example, using reach trajectories, we found behavioural evidence for early processing of low spatial frequency information in faces while reaching to high spatial frequency face targets. Reaching trajectories can reveal new information regarding otherwise hidden internal events. They can also reflect the continuity between brain-body-environment that enables mental phenomena. Perception and action are critical to behaviour and this approach can provide an insight into perceptual and cognitive deficits, besides having far-reaching influences on the way we think about sensory information processing.

Genevieve Quek - I study nonconscious processing of subliminal stimuli under different manipulations of temporal and spatial attention. I use motion capture technology to examine participants' reaching responses that reflect cognitive processes unfolding over time.

Dr Jason Friedman - I study arm movements and grasping as examples of how the brain plans movements in highly redundant systems. I use motion capture devices, such as the Optotrak system, the minibird, and the cyberglove, in order to test the predictions of these models. I also use arm movement trajectories as an analysis tool to provide new insights into problems in perceptual decision making.

Lincoln Colling - My primary research area is social cognition with a particular focus on understanding the mechanisms that allow people to engage in joint tasks. In particular, my experimental work is aimed at uncovering the mechanisms that allow people to plan and execute their actions in response to actions performed by other people. My research combines methods from experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I employ techniques like motion capture and computer-based reaction time experiments to study how people produce and respond to actions, and brain imaging techniques like electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography (MEG) are employed to understand how the brain responds to action observation.

Lars Marstaller - I'm working on gestures, ie. the hand and arm movements that accompany speech. I am interested in developing ways of how to automatically detect gestures based on movement tracking. The action lab provides me with the opportunity to measure hand movements with high accuracy. This kind of data will enable me to search for movement patterns that are not available to video based methods of motion analysis.

Shahd Al-Janabi - My research interests lie in attention and non-conscious perception, and I explore these topics using EEG and the Optotrack system. The primary line of research concerns the automaticity (and depth) of non-conscious information processing – how task-based attention modulates non-consciously presented stimuli, and the consequences of such selective processing on non-conscious perception. I'll be investigating, in particular, whether different types of non-consciously presented stimuli can bypass the influence of task-based attention.


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