Cognitive science is a cross-disciplinary effort to understand the mind and brain. Neuroimaging is a central tool in this effort but has been limited to equipment capable of achieving either high spatial or temporal resolution of brain activity. Recent electroencephalography (EEG) equipment and associated software advances, however, allow for both high spatial and temporal (i.e., 4-D) resolution through source localization of the electrical EEG signal as measured noninvasively (and inexpensively) through the scalp. The resulting data could put scientists and clinicians in the position to understand brain function as it occurs in the real-world if there were established methodological approaches to analyze such data. The PIs are developing a procedure that is capable of analyzing brain data resulting form naturalistic stimuli that could be applied to 4-D EEG data. The PIs request an upgrade of existing EEG equipment, additional equipment, and software that, when combined, will achieve high source localization accuracy and allow them to test their approach on source localized 4-D EEG data.
Intellectual Merit. A goal of cognitive science is to understand the brain under conditions in which it is thought to have evolved, typically develop, and normally function. That is, under ecological, natural, or real-world conditions. This has not yet been possible with existing equipment and methodological techniques. This is in part because of spatial or temporal limitations of neuroimaging equipment have necessitated the use of tightly controlled and usually reductionist stimuli that do not always resemble anything one might encounter in the world. By applying the aforementioned analysis method to 4-D data resulting from naturalistic stimuli, we will be able to understand how the brain realistically yields behavior for the first time. Thus, cognitive science will have a new and transformative tool to understand mind and brain.
Broader Impacts. The requested instrumentation will be used in a cross-disciplinary effort at Hamilton College. Specifically, the equipment will advance research in laboratories in the Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience pertaining to the organization of language and the brain and in Computer Science pertaining to human computer interaction. Both labs make use of real-world stimuli or situations to understand mind and brain in more realistic terms. The advocated approach will also serve to create other collaborations that will be facilitated by the students at Hamilton who have the unique opportunity among undergraduate institutions to participate in lab-based curricula. It will be easier for these students to conduct experiments using naturalistic stimuli and will make research more accessible to them and, therefore, enhance their educational experience. Validations of the described methods using the acquired equipment will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals and all software will be made publicly available. This will ultimately have a broad impact outside of Hamilton college: Allowing physicians to use naturalistic stimuli will ultimately improve retention in therapeutic programs if patients can do something they enjoy while brain data is collected (e.g., watching television). Furthermore, the high spatial and temporal resolution data acquired under these natural conditions could lead to better predictors, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.