Behavioral and Brain Sciences Projects and Opportunities

Decision making, impulse control and addictive processes

Faculty and graduate students in this area conduct research on decision making in general, individual differences in decision making, and problems that arise in some individual leading to problems in areas of impulse control and addictive behaviors such as alcoholism and pathological gambling.

Faculty members who conduct research in this area include:

  • W. Keith Campbell (social and personality psychology)
  • Lillian Eby (substance abuse treatment workforce, smoking cessation practices in organizations, adoption and implementation of evidence-based treatments for substance abuse, organizational processes in substance abuse treatment centers)
  • Adam Goodie (decision making and pathological gambling)
  • Joshua Miller (personality correlates of externalizing behaviors and addictive behaviors)

Social-personality psychology

Researchers in this area examine the action of the individual in the social context.

Faculty members who conduct research in this area include:


Georgia Decision Laboratory

Director: Dr. Adam Goodie

The Georgia Decision Lab is collaborating with the University of Georgia's Department of Computer Science to examine individuals' strategic reasoning in competitive sequential-move games and then computationally simulate this behavior via interactive partially observable Markov decision processes (I-POMDPs).

Also, the Georgia Decision Lab is investigating personality characteristics that may relate to pathological gambling, such as sensation-seeking.

Finally, the Georgia Decision Lab and the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory are collaborating on an MEG study investigating the neurological imp lications of gambling pathology on various aspects of decision behavior.

Projects and Collaborators:

Pathological gambling and personality: Adam Goodie and Erica Littler

Strategic reasoning in competitive games: Adam Goodie, Diana Young, Prashant Doshi (GDL and Dept. of Computer Science)

MEG-pathological gambling: Adam Goodie, Brett Clementz, Lisa Krusemark, Diana Young (CCNL and GDL)


Advanced Human Resource Lab

Director: Dr. Robert Mahan

The Advanced Human Resource Lab, under the direction of Dr. Robert Mahan, performs research in both cognitive and applied psychology. Often a Brunswikian meta theoretical view guides this research. Current projects include an analysis of experts' judgment processes in threat assessment, and judgment processes behind the voting process.

Collaborators:

Adam Goodie


Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory

Directors: Dr. Jennifer McDowell and Dr. Brett Clementz

EEG

There are a number of interesting, collaborative projects being conducted in the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory co-directed by Drs. Brett Clementz and Jennifer McDowell. First is a study using electroencephalography (EEG) to compare brain responses across young, middle-aged, and older adults to determine the effects of aging on how sound is processed in the brain. Second is the evaluation of EEG data collected from twins in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Twin Family Study. By evaluating the similarities and differences in the electrical brain response in identical and fraternal twins, we can help determine the extent to which genetics determines brain activity. Third is a recently completed study using EEG and some specially developed visual stimuli to monitor the allocation of feature-based attention. Fourth, we are in the beginning stages of an exciting study that will optimize our ability to understand where in the brain, and in when in the time course of activity, specific events occur by integrating data from multiple neuroimaging methods: EEG, magnetoencephalography (MEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This multi-modal project is designed to test some specific questions about the role of prefrontal cortex in supporting an inhibitory eye movement task that is of interest to researchers as a potential endophenotype for schizophrenia. Finally, we are part of a collaborative team studying the effects of an exercise intervention program on the cognitive processes of overweight children. The aspect of the study conducted in our laboratory is the evaluation of how brain activity is changed (as assessed by fMRI) across time in the group of children who have received exercise training compared to a control group.

Projects & Collaborators:

Aging study: Yuan Gao, Brett Clementz (UGA)

Twin study: Lauren Ethridge, Brett Clementz, Jennifer McDowell (UGA), Steven Malone, William Iacono (Univ. of Minnesota)

Attention study: Jun Wang, Brett Clementz (UGA), Andreas Keil (Univ. of Florida).

Multi-modal study: William Oliver, Brett Clementz, Jennifer McDowell, Jordan Hamm, Qingyang Li, Natalie Picchetti (UGA)

Exercise study: Jennifer McDowell, Benjamin Austin, Cindy Kraftt, Patricia Miller, Philip Tomporowski (UGA), Cathine Davis (Medical College of Georgia).


UGA Vision Laboratory

Director: Dr. Randy Hammond

Hammond Lab

The primary goal of our research program is to conduct basic and applied studies on the structure and function of the central primate retina and crystalline lens. A primary focus of the laboratory has been the study of the dietary carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, concentrated within the fovea (termed macular pigment or the macula lutea). Our projects involve evaluating the role of macular pigment as a yellow filter in improving visual functioning.

Hammond Lab

Researchers involved in the UGA Vision Laboratory:

  • B. Randy Hammond, Jr. PhD - Principal Investigator
  • Michael Engles, PhD - Post Doc
  • Emily Bovier - Graduate Student
  • Melissa Dengler - Graduate Student
  • Jennifer Wong - Graduate Student
  • Brad Bernstein - Lab Technician

Selected Publications:

Engles M, Wooten BR, and BR Hammond Jr. Macular pigment: a test of the acuity hypothesis. Invest Opthalmol Vis Sci. 2007; 48(6): 2922-2931.

Renzi LM, and EJ Johnson. Lutein and age-related ocular disorders in the older adult: a review. J Nutr Elder. 2007; 26(3-4): 139-157.

Stringham JM and BR Hammond Jr. Compensation for light loss due to filtering by macular pigment: relation to hue cancellation. Opthalmic Physiol Opt. 2007; 27(3): 232-237.

Stringham JM, and BR Hammond Jr. Macular pigment and visual performance under glare conditions. Optom Vis Sci. 2008;85(4): 285.

Stringham JM, and BR Hammond Jr. The glare hypothesis of macular pigment function. Optom Vis Sci. 2007: 84(9): 859-864.

Wooten BR, Hammond BR, and LM Renzi. Using scotopic and photopic flicker to measure lens optical density. Opthalmic Physiol Opt. 2007; 27(4): 321-328.


UGA Infant Research Laboratory

Director: Dr. Janet E. Frick

The UGA Infant Research Lab (IRL) conducts studies on the development of visual attention and learning in young infants. Currently, the IRL is investigating how well babies, children, and adults can understand visual "cues", like arrows. We know that babies have their attention "cued" to look in particular ways by stimuli such as arrows or eyes. We are trying to better understand how this ability develops.

The IRL also is examining the development of face perception. This work involves investigating how infants identify faces and process facial expressions. Comparisons will be made among 6-month-olds, 9-month-olds, and adults.

A study is currently being wrapped up on the relationship between nutrition and visual development in young babies. We are interested in how certain nutritional factors in the mother's diet and in formula or breast milk may impact the baby's ability to see very dimly lit stimuli. To study this, we are measuring "contrast sensitivity" in 4-6 month old babies. This work has been discussed in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Additionally, IRL has recently begun examining individual differences in how young children develop dual representation (i.e., understanding that a symbol object represents two aspects of that object) using scale models.

Projects & Collaborators:

Perceptual Narrowing of Facial Identity Recognition: Elizabeth A. Simpson, Krisztina Varga, Janet E. Frick

I Saw the Sign: The Development of Directional Understanding: Krisztina Varga, Janet E. Frick

Nutrition and Visual Development: Melissa Dengler, Janet E. Frick, Billy R. Hammond, Lisa Renzi, Krisztina Varga

Differences in Development of Dual Representation: Melissa A. Bright, Janet E. Frick


Bernstein Laboratory

Director: Dr. Irwin Bernstein

Yerkes Field Station - Wilson Lab

Desiree Sharpe, a graduate student in Dr. Bernstein's laboratory, is currently working on a couple of projects with Dr. Mark Wilson at Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University. The research in the Wilson lab predicts that in subordinate female rhesus monkeys, reproductive deficits are due to an attenuation of gonadotropin secretion by an upregulation of CRH, a consequential phenomenon following natural exposure to chronic psychosocial stress. The model used in this project also focuses on the impact of polymorphisms in the gene that encodes the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT), as short promoter length variant in the SERT gene is associated with increased vulnerability to stressors in humans and rhesus macaques.

Zoo Atlanta & Gorilla Haven

Tori Vratanina and Desiree Sharpe initiated a project working with gorillas at both Zoo Atlanta and Gorilla Haven. The primary contact person at Zoo Atlanta is Dr. Tara Stoinski. Gorilla Haven was founded by Jane and Steuart Dewar and is a natural habitat sanctuary located in Morganton, GA. This research has a cognitive focus, addressing whether gorillas are able to correctly maximize a food reward when given a choice of two symbolic quantities represented by tokens of varying value.

Projects and Collaborators:

Yerkes Field Station: Irwin Bernstein, Desiree Sharpe, Mark Wilson

Zoo Atlanta & Gorilla Haven: Irwin Bernstein, Desiree Sharpe, Tori Vratanina, and Tara Stoinski


Behavioral Neuropharmacology Laboratory

Director: Dr. Philip Holmes

Research in the Behavioral Neuropharmacology Laboratory examines the neurobiological effects of exercise in rodent models. The work focuses on how exercise produces long-term regulation of neurotransmitter functions and how these changes mediate the behavioral and neurobiological effects of exercise. Some of the experiments measure exercise-induced increases in the expression of the gene encoding galanin, a peptide neurotransmitter abundantly expressed in noradrenergic neurons. Other experiments measure brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene expression in the hippocampus. The overall aim is to understand how these neurotransmitters/trophic factors may contribute to the beneficial effects of exercise on brain function. Previous research has examined the neurobiological basis for the antidepressant and anti-stress effects of exercise. Other projects have studied the cognition-enhancing and neuroprotective effects of exercise. The laboratory is currently working on an NIH-funded project to study the role of exercise-induced increases in galanin on cocaine self-administration in rodent models of addiction and relapse.

Techniques employed in the Holmes laboratory include in situ hybridization histochemistry to measure gene expression in the brain, stereotactic surgery, in vivo voltammetry and microdialysis, and a variety of behavioral paradigms including rodent models of stress, depression, and addiction.


Primate Cognition and Behavior Laboratory

Director: Dr. Dorothy M. Fragaszy

Brian Stone is working on a project involving capuchin monkeys' and chimpanzees' ability to point to objects using a laser pointer. This project investigates these species' use of pointing in goal-directed behavior. To compare capuchins and chimpanzees in this study, Brian collaborates with researchers at the Language Research Center of Georgia State University.

Jessi Crast is investigating social learning in capuchin monkeys, specifically in the areas of visual attention and social facilitation. A collaboration with researchers at the Language Research Center of Georgia State University is underway to look at social influence on skill acquisition of a foraging task in social groups of capuchins.

Freya Liu studies the nut-cracking behavior in wild capuchin monkeys in Boa Vista, Piaui, Brazil. Her recent work explores how the monkeys explore properties of the tools. Another project focuses on the development of nut-cracking in young monkeys.

Allison Eury is currently working on an experiment investigating the monkeys' abilities to choose efficient routes between simulated foraging patches in the lab. The monkeys use a laser pointer apparatus to indicate desired foods from a distance. The routes the laser dot travels between a series of these desired foods are being analyzed for a route-minimizing strategy. This experiment is a variation on the Traveling Salesman Problem, a problem intensely investigated in the fields of computer science and mathematics.

Erin Colbert-White is studying quantity discrimination in capuchin monkeys in collaboration with researchers at the National Research Council in Rome, Italy. She is looking at discrete quantity judgment between 1, 3, and 5 and the extent to which they're able to sum pairs of quantities. In addition, in collaboration with researchers at the University of California at Riverside and the University of Georgia's Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Erin is working on the use of language by an African Grey parrot to regulate and maintain a social relationship with her care-taker, Betty Jean Craige, using both facultative and social features of language. A recent press article discussed Erin's research: http://onlineathens.com/stories/101208/liv_342183948.shtml

Graduate students Elizabeth Simpson and Krisztina Varga are examining the development of face perception. They are interested in how infants identify faces and process facial expressions. Comparisons will be made among 6-month-olds, 9-month-olds, and adults.

Projects & Collaborators:

Use of Pointing in Goal-Directed Behavior: Dorothy Fragaszy and Brian Stone

Social Learning in Capuchin Monkeys: Dorothy Fragaszy and Jessi Crast

Nut-Cracking Behavior in Wild Capuchins: Dorothy Fragaszy and Freya Liu

Quantity Discrimination in Capuchin Monkeys: Dorothy Fragaszy, Erin Colbert-White, and Betty Jean Craige

Development of Face Perception: Dorothy Fragaszy, Elizabeth Simpson, and Krisztina Varga

Narcissism Laboratory

Director: Dr. W. Keith Campbell

The Narcissism Lab broadly examines individual differences in trait narcissism. Our research focuses on (1) the regulation of narcissists' positive self-views through various interpersonal (e.g., close relationships) and intrapersonal (e.g., social cognitive and self-presentational processes) routes, (2) understanding the relational costs and benefits associated with trait narcissism, and (3) clarifying the distinction between trait and clinical narcissism. Recently, we have also begun to examine indictors associated with cultural narcissism in the United States. Our research interests also include self-esteem, self-control, and entitlement

Projects & Collaborators:

Laura Buffardi

Manifestation of Narcissism on Facebook: Laura E. Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell
Recent research revealed that narcissists are highly linked in online social networking communities -- they have more Facebook friends and wallpostings. Narcissism was also correlated with posting self-promoting quotes and information in "About Me" sections and with posting attractive, sexy, self-promoting photographs. Moreover, Facebook page owners' narcissism was detected by strangers who viewed their profiles.
This project was recently featured in a number of media outlets, including the Atlanta Journal Constitution (read more), and ABC.com (read more).

Brittany Gentile

Gender Differences in Domain-Specific Self-Esteem: Brittany C. Gentile, University of Georgia, Shelly Grabe, University of Wisconsin, Brenda Dolan-Pascoe, San Diego State University, Jean M. Twenge, Sand Diego State University, Brooke Wells, City University of New York, Allissa Maitano, Alliant University .
Another recent project examined gender differences in the four of the most popular measures in domain-specific self-esteem (Tennessee Self-Concept Scale, Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale, Harter Self-Perception Profile, Self-Description Questionnaire). Most previous research on gender differences in self-esteem has shown little or no differences between males and females despite the common belief that females suffer from low self-esteem. Results revealed that males scored significantly higher than females on physical appearance, athletic, personal self, and self-satisfaction self-esteem. Females scored higher than males on behavioral conduct and moral-ethical self-esteem. No significant gender differences appeared in academic, social acceptance, family, and affect self-esteem.
Gentile, B. C., Grabe, S., Dolan-Pascoe, B., Twenge, J. M., Wells, B., Maitano, A., et al. Gender differences in domain-specific self-esteem: A meta-analysis. Accepted to Review of General Psychology for publication in 2009.

Lisa Krusemark

Neural Correlates of the Self-Serving Bias: Lisa Krusemark (Graduate student alumnus) and W. Keith Campbell
Research suggests that self-serving attributions are prevalent among all individuals, showing that people attribute success and positive outcomes to the self, and attribute negative outcomes or failure to external causes. A recent finding suggests that overriding self-serving attributions requires greater control and prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. Using dense array electroencephalography (EEG), we were able to demonstrate that non-self-serving attributions recruit greater PFC activity. This project was recently published in Psychophysiology. In addition, Lisa is currently investigating the neural correlates of narcissism and self-serving attributions.
Krusemark, E. A., Campbell, W. K., & Clementz, B. A. (2008). Attributions, deception, and event-related potentials: An Investigation of the self-serving bias. Psychophysiology, 45, 511-515.