Tag Archives: cognition

Adam Anderson, Human Neuroscience Institute, Cornell and Helen Irlen, Founder of the Irlen Institute

Adam Anderson, in Human Development's Human Neuroscience Institute, has received a grant from the Irlen Syndrome Foundation for an fMRI project being conducted at the Cornell MRI Facility on the relationship between color processing and other cognitive processes in the brain. Helen Irlen, founder of the Irlen Institute, identified a perceptual processing impairment, now referred to as Irlen Syndrome, which affects the brain's ability to process specific wavelengths of light. Below is a reprint of Dr. Anderson's blog entry on the Irlen Syndrome Foundation website.

“Color alters brain activity in ways that extend well beyond color perception to influence brain regions supporting perception, thought, language, and emotion.”

Study #1: How Color Affects Brain Activity

We have just finished our first study on color and brain activity. In our efforts to understand the role of color on brain function, we examined how different colors influence brain activity patterns. Well beyond color perception, we found colors have distinct roles not only in altering visual system activity, including the primary visual cortex and the thalamus, but also higher level regions including the parahippocampal gyrus (involved in representing the environment) and the middle temporal gyrus (involved in language processing and motion perception).  We also found colors influence limbic regions involved in emotions and feelings, including the anterior insula (emotional body states) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA, a region that produces Dopamine, a neurochemical that influences reward processing and cognition throughout the cortex).  In sum, color alters brain activity in ways that extend well beyond color perception to influence brain regions supporting perception, thought, language and emotion. Although preliminary, such results provide foundational support for color filters as means to alter brain activity patterns in focal brain regions, and the functions these regions support. These results lay the foundational neuroscience groundwork for future studies looking specifically at Irlen Spectral Filters.

Study #2: How Color Influences Perception, Cognition, and Emotion: Irlen as a Brain-Based Condition

In our current study, we are building upon our earlier findings and undertaking more focused examinations of the influence of color on how information from the eye is represented in the brain, and the transmission of that information to the higher order portions of the brain that support perception, cognition (e.g., language and thought), and emotion. This study also assesses how colors influence brain activity to alter performance on tasks, including perceptual, cognitive and affective judgments. Results from this research will shed light on the neural mechanisms by which color can modulate brain activity and alter brain function.  This study also examines the presence of Irlen Syndrome symptoms in the population at large, their neural bases, and whether these patterns of neural dysregulation are altered by color.  These findings should help establish how, rather than a retinal visual disorder, Irlen Syndrome arises from dysregulated brain networks, with different brain regions supporting specific symptoms.

Eve De Rosa

Reprinted from Ezra Magazine, Spring 2017

By H. Roger Segelken

Students surreptitiously texting from the back of the classroom – while half-paying attention to the lecture – probably think professors don't know what's going through their minds.

Eve De Rosa, associate professor of human development and an expert in the neurochemistry of cognition, knows precisely what's coursing through those multitasking brains: the neurochemical acetylcholine.

As De Rosa explains: "Acetylcholine is best known for its role in Alzheimer's disease, but we're learning more about its contributions to cognition in people of all ages."

"The guiding hypothesis for the work I do," she adds, "is asking whether something like Alzheimer's, generally thought to be a memory disorder, is actually an encoding disorder, with information not getting 'packaged' and not reaching memory centers of the brain in the first place."

One task for the rats in De Rosa's lab is to use their noses to choose particular symbols on a touch screen. They learn this trick quickly and efficiently – unless their brains are short on acetylcholine.

De Rosa came to Cornell in 2013 and says that from the start, she could detect a certain "collaborative energy" in the air.

"I'd been at University of Toronto for a decade when I guest lectured about my rat work to researchers in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior," she recalls. "After the talk, people asked about acetylcholine in human cognition, so I continued to speak about my work with children and the elderly. A few weeks later, faculty from human development contacted me and said, 'Have you ever thought of moving?'"

Happily ensconced at Toronto, De Rosa was reluctant to accept the invitation – until she recalled her interactions with Cornellians. "There was so much palpable, collaborative energy and creativity here," De Rosa says, "and that's what attracted me to Cornell."

De Rosa's teaching responsibilities include pre-med courses, like Neurochemistry of Human Behavior, where undergraduates learn about the Nobel Prize-worthy discovery, in 1915, of acetylcholine. The phenomenon of nerves using chemicals to communicate was deduced from acetylcholine's action on the heart. Among her collaborators is spouse Adam Anderson, also an associate professor of human development and a neuroscientist specializing in the role of emotion in human faculties.

Their research project? How the heart and mind are connected through chemistry – which has led to further collaboration, with electrical and computer engineering's Bruce Land.

Published on Nov 4, 2016

Adam Anderson and Eve De Rosa from the Affect and Cognition Lab at Cornell share state of the art research methods about psychological and neural foundations of emotion and cognition. From animal models to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the public will get an idea of how scientists attempt to understand the nature of affection. Furthermore, Ursula Hess will draw from her research on the communication of emotions to discuss whether emotions are universally understood or culturally dependent.

Joachim Muller-Jung, Head of Science at F.A.Z.
Adam Anderson, Assoc. Prof., Affective Neuroscience, Cornell University
Eve De Rosa, Assoc. Prof. of Human Ecology, Cornell University
Ursual Hess, Prof. of Psychology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Fri 4.11.2016, 12:3014:00

created by State Festival http://www.statefestival.org/
presented by F.A.Z. http://www.faz.net/
produced by WECAP http://wecap.de/

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany
(CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

Reprinted from Human Ecology Magazine, Spring 2016

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Nathan Spreng, Assistant Professor in Human Development

In the Department of Human Development, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) informs Nathan Spreng’s studies of large-scale brain network dynamics and their role in cognition.

A Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow, Spreng is curious about how volunteer test subjects in his Laboratory of Brain and Cognition conceive of the future and how they navigate the social world. Then there’s the hypothesized link between thinking about the past and imagining the future. “These different cognitive tasks activate similar brain regions,” Spreng
explains. “But it’s actually the other regions they talk to that help determine whether we’re thinking about the past or the future.”

It’s not only when the brain is doing something—performing cognitive tasks—that’s interesting to Spreng. Neuroscientists also study brain activity while people are simply resting in the scanner. But do our brains ever truly “rest”?

Not according to Spreng: “Signaling is always going on up there. Understanding how different brain regions hum along together (or are connected functionally) while people are simply resting can tell us a lot about how their brains work during cognitive tasks, and might eventually help us predict how resilient they will be to aging or brain disease.”

Spreng believes there’s even more in the resting-state fMRI data than previously imagined. In collaboration with Peter Doerschuk, professor of biomedical engineering, Spreng is developing a new method for analyzing resting-state activity. Doerschuk, also a Harvard-educated medical doctor, excels at developing algorithms for high-performance software systems.

In published reports of their progress so far, Spreng and Doerschuk say they’re finding ways to add important new details to the map of the resting brain— details like causality and direction of information flow between regions. Cause
and signaling direction are important considerations, Spreng notes, “when characterizing exactly how that network operates, and how information flows through the system, and how it might be involved in cognitive functions.”

The Cornell collaborators say their new statistical method shows promise in tracking both causation and direction of neural signals, showing us that the resting brain is anything but.