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Cognitive and Motor Neuroscience

Cognitive and Motor Neuroscience (MS / PhD) Overview

The Cognitive and Motor Neuroscience theme strives to advance scientific understanding of the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying skilled human behaviors. We research how these mechanisms are influenced by changes across the life-span (development and aging), changes due to practice (learning and expertise), or changes following illness and injury (rehabilitation and neurodegenerative disease).

 

Research Pillars

Skill Acquisition and Expertise

In the skill acquisition pillar, we investigate the role of perceptual, cognitive, and motor processes critical for the various stages along the learning and memory timeline (e.g., initial encoding, sleep-related consolidation, long-term retention, expertise). Understanding how these processes interact has significant implications for the training and development of domain-specific expertise across professional domains.

Neuromechanics and Motor Control

Neuromechanics integrates concepts from neurophysiology and biomechanics to understand how sophisticated movement emerges from the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. Our research pillar focuses on how these systems interact to provide reliable representations of the environment and our own bodies in order to control our movements with millisecond precision.  

Injury and Rehabilitation

Following injury, or as the result of degenerative disease, our capability for even basic movements can be compromised. Within the injury and rehabilitation pillar, our goal is to understand how anatomical, physiological, and psychological variables interact to affect recovery (whether this is a return to participation in the activities of daily living or a return to play in sport). 

Modeling and Analytics

We are often collecting complex, statistically dependent data that unfold over time. Time might be milliseconds in electroencephalography studies, seconds in locomotion and postural control, or years in rehabilitation and aging. Our team specializes in advanced statistical and dynamic analyses to answer substantive questions in human movement science.

Brain-Behavior Mapping

We adopt a multimodal neuro-imaging and -modulatory approach to examine the neural underpinnings of various motor behaviors. We employ electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including functional and anatomical MRI as well as magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Brain areas and networks of interest can be modulated via non-invasive brain stimulation approaches such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). 

 

Research Facilities

The Cognitive and Motor Neuroscience theme has two distinct laboratory spaces at the University of Utah; the Cognitive Science Laboratory and the Neuromechanics Laboratory. The equipment is shared between the two laboratory spaces and our faculty and trainees work in both areas. The difference lies in the type of experiments conducted in each laboratory space. The Cognitive Science Laboratory has a smaller footprint and is designed for psychological experiments, cognitive testing, and studies that require less space. The Neuromechanics Laboratory has a larger footprint and is designed for studies of locomotion, larger movements, and detailed biomechanical analysis. Between the two spaces, we have one 32 channel stationary EEG system, one 32 channel mobile EEG system, a head mounted display for VR presentation with built in eye-tracking, a separate eye-tracking system for data collection outside of VR, a 12-camera motion capture system, two sets of full body accelerometers for motion tracking, a wireless EMG system, research-grade force plates and other transducers. Additionally, we have computing resources to support high-volume data collection, processing, and analysis. Our unique combination of personnel, facilities, and equipment allow us to conduct cutting-edge research in human neuroscience.

 

MS Thesis Program Details

You will have a primary mentor but also be supported by all of the faculty in the Cognitive and Motor Neuroscience Research Theme.  You will complete a 36 hour program of study along with your thesis.  Your courses will emphasize content area knowledge, research methods and statistics, seminar experiences with your mentors, and the completion of your thesis.  Your completed thesis will be in manuscript form and submitted to a journal upon completion. 

Required for this Program

  1. BS in Kinesiology or a related field
  2. Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher
  3. The GRE requirement has been suspended for the 2021 application cycle due to Covid-19.  You do not need to submit your scores during the application process.

 

PhD Program Details

You will have a primary mentor but also be supported by all of the faculty in the Cognitive and Motor Neuroscience Research Theme.  You will complete a 67 hour program of study along with your dissertation.  Your courses will emphasize content area knowledge, research methods and statistics, specialized content knowledge, seminar experiences with your mentors, and the completion of your dissertation.  Your dissertation will consist of multiple manuscripts. 

Required for this Program

  1. MS thesis* in Kinesiology, Nutrition or a related field
  2. Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher 
  3. The GRE requirement has been suspended for the 2021 application cycle due to Covid-19.  You do not need to submit your scores during the application process.

*MS non-thesis may be acceptable with research and manuscript writing experience.  How these competencies were met should be addressed in the letter of application.

 

Our Team

Core Faculty
  1. Mark Williams, PhD 
  2. Peter Fino, PhD 
  3. Les Podlog, PhD 
  4. *Keith Lohse, PhD, PStat
  5. Genevieve Albouy, PhD
  6. Bradley King, PhD

*Research Theme Leader

Post-Doctoral Researchers
  1. Tiphanie Raffegeau, PhD
  2. Amanda Morris, PhD
Graduate Students
  1. Anupriya Pathania
  2. Mindie Clark
  3. Jason Dude
  4. Bre Dumke
  5. Nick Kreter
  6. Alise Borne
  7. Ryan Pelo
  8. Rhiannon Cowan
  9. Joe Thomas
  10. Brady DeCouto
  11. Veronica Andrew
  12. Thiago Lopes
  13. Nicholas Woo
  14. Sarah Taylor

 

 

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