Year in Review 2021-22
Default Mode Network- Elizabeth Castro conducted her Neuroscience senior thesis on the long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) on the default mode network under the mentorship of Dr. Ledwidge. According to Castro, the purpose of her project was to “fill a gap in current literature as it relates to differences in the default mode network” comparing college student-athletes with and without a history of TBI. Castro used the lab’s 256-electrode EEG and several neuropsychological assessments. Her main focus was to examine how changes in the default mode network associated with a history of mTBI may be related to differences in working memory, attention and depressive symptoms. With guidance and help from the research assistants in the lab, Castro was able to test 12 participants. She presented and defended her thesis at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year in front of Dr. Clare Mathes, Dr. Patrick Ledwidge, and family & friends. Her work was also highlighted at Baldwin Wallace’s 2022 Ovation Day of Excellence.
Castro graduated this past spring from Baldwin Wallace University’s College of Arts and Sciences with degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology. Castro will be continuing her education by pursuing her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Buffalo. She hopes to continue this type of work throughout her time at the University of Buffalo and investigate cognitive and systems neuroscience.
Concussion Project- In Fall 2021, the Cognitive Neuropsychology lab wrapped up its 3-year-long concussion project. This project was headed by Dr. Patrick Ledwidge in collaboration with Baldwin Wallace University Communication and Science Disorders Associate Professor Christa Jones. The purpose of this project was to investigate cognitive-linguistic processing and impulse control after a concussion. This project utilized the lab’s 256-electrode EEG and collected data from 36 college-age student participants.
The lab research assistants and team were excited and happy to finish this project after a year-long hiatus due to COVID delays. Past lab members will be presenting this research at the 2022 Joint Conference on Brain Injury in New York. The team also looks forward to sharing findings from this project in a forthcoming publication accepted to Brain & Language.
Emotional-Spatial Cueing- Baldwin Wallace ‘21 alumnus, David Peita, returned to the Cognitive Neuropsychology Lab to complete his Emotional-Spatial project. He first piloted this project at BW’s Ovation Day of Excellence in 2021 as a senior. The purpose of his study was “to determine the effects of emotionally salient facial expression cues on the ERP indices of attention (e.g., N1, P1) during a spatial recognition paradigm” according to Peita.
Peita, as a post-baccalaureate project coordinator, developed an adapted version of Posner cueing paradigm that would manipulate participants’ visual attention using different emotional facial expressions. With help from other research assistants in the lab, Peita collected data from 10 participants. In this task, participants viewed faces displaying different emotional expressions and with their eye gaze towards the left or right. Participant's job was to direct their attention to either the right or left side of their screen based on the eye movements presented on the screen (“cue”). Subsequently, their objective was to respond to a '+' symbol and ignore 'x' symbols presented either on the left or right side of the screen. We hypothesized that during validly cued, emotionally salient trials, the LPP component to the emotional face would be enhanced (reflecting greater emotional processing), while the N1 and P1 components to the target (+) would be diminished. This would suggest that emotional and spatial resources compete for allocation of attention. Data collection is on hold given unique data processing challenges posed by this unique paradigm.
Community Service Engagement- “Kindergarten Brain Day”
On May 26th, the lab welcomed three kindergarten classes from Cuyahoga Heights Elementary school to Baldwin Wallace’s campus. Angie Gentilin, Elizabeth Castro, and David Peita helped bring this event to life for 55 kindergarteners.
Across three different modules, our team introduced the kindergarteners to “a day in the life of a college student” and the different “focus areas” that college students can study, including neuroscience. The kindergartens were given an exciting demonstration in the lab on the net application, and all had the chance to help fit the EEG net on their classmate's head. As they learned more about the brain throughout the day, the kindergartners were given the chance to hold a real sheep brain. With assistance from our research assistants, the kindergartners learned about the brain regions, hemispheres, and lobes.
The kindergartners got an exclusive tour of campus to see the students' dorms, dining halls, and classrooms by our research assistants. They also got to see the new Knowlton center and see the inside of a chemistry lab. The kindergartners had fun questions and curiosities about the brain and college. The day was fun and celebratory as all these little geniuses were awarded brain medals and recognized as “junior neuroscientists.”
Hannah Dodson, a freshmen Neuroscience major with a Gender Studies minor joined the Cognitive Neuropsychology Lab in the Spring 2022 semester. She joined the lab after completing Dr. Ledwidge’s Introduction to Brain and Behavior class as an incoming Neuroscience student at BW. Dodson is particularly interested in the psychiatric areas of Neuroscience and says the lab “is giving her experience that most undergrads are not able to receive.” She also says that she decided to pursue the lab because it gives her the opportunity “to get hands-on experience in her future field and help her develop her love for research while introducing her to new material and practical research methods.” She will be helping the Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research team in the development and completion of the project.
McKenzie Burke- Psychology ’21 graduated in December 2021. Burke worked at the lab since Spring 2021. After Burke graduated, her first job was doing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy with children with Autism. Currently, she is pursuing her master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Akron University. She plans to work as a counselor for a few years before returning to pursue her doctorate. Burke says that working at the Cognitive Neuropsychology lab helped her “gain confidence working in a clinical research setting, as well as provided her with the skill sets to conduct ethical/accurate research.”
Elizabeth Castro- Neuroscience and Psychology ’22 graduated this past May. Castro worked at the lab since the spring of her freshmen year. She was a research assistant throughout her time at the lab and lab manager during her senior year. Castro is continuing her research career at the University of Buffalo to get her Ph.D. in Neuroscience. She will be continuing to research traumatic brain injury and network analysis through co-mentorship and rotations before diving into a large project similar to her senior thesis. Overall, Castro’s long term career goal is to have her own research lab one day. Castro says that working at the lab has helped her “gain valuable knowledge about how a lab is run, research ethics, and how to collect [reliable] data and work with a research team.” Castro is very grateful for her time at the lab and all the experiences it gave her in EEG methods, collecting data and doing data analysis.
Zach Milko- Sociology ’22 graduated this past May with Data Analytics and Psychology minors. Milko has been a part of the lab for 2.5 years as a research assistant. Milko is continuing his graduate career at Case Western University to get his Ph.D. in Sociology. He hopes to get involved in more social inequality research to turn academic work into social activism that can create change for the better. His career aspirations are to focus on research while also consulting and “staying engaged with current world issues” as an activist scholar, according to Milko. Milko also says that the lab taught him that “working in a team is very valuable in order to get things done efficiently and with high quality.”
David Peita- Music Therapy ’21 with a Neuroscience minor graduated in May 2021. Peita came back to the lab to pursue his Neuroscience interests with Dr. Ledwidge about Emotional-Spatial Cueing. He will be continuing his research career at Binghamton University to get his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Peita will be a part of The Lim Lab at SUNY Binghamton and research “the role of external auditory stimuli in facilitating speech and communication.” This work will be looking at the involvement of the cognitive networks used in selective attention and working memory. Peita’s long-term goal is to work as a professor of cognitive psychology, but he also sees himself working within other industries such as healthcare or technology. Peita is very grateful for his time and experience at the BW Cognitive Neuropsychology lab. He says that the three years in the lab has taught him “necessary skills to be a strong PhD student... and bolstered his confidence as a researcher having access to high-quality EEG equipment” and the incredible mentorship of Dr. Ledwidge.