Travis Todd Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

Dr. Travis Todd, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Professor David Bucci’s laboratory, has received a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health.  Dr. Todd’s grant, entitled “Cortico-hippocampal Contributions to Context and Extinction Learning,” will focus on how a part of the brain known as the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) is involved in forming memories about fear-provoking stimuli.  Importantly, this work will also emphasize the neural substrates of fear extinction, an animal model of cue-exposure therapy in humans.  This research will provide a deeper understanding of cue-exposure therapy, a commonly employed therapy used to treat a variety of human disorders (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD, anxiety related disorders, phobias). Further, by investigating a brain region (the retrosplenial cortex) that is known to be compromised in human disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, the proposed experiments may inform clinical practice and treatments for these disorders.

Not Just a Pretty Face, But It Helps on Election Day

Female politicians’ success can be predicted by their facial features, especially in conservative states where women with more feminine faces tend to do better at the ballot box, a Dartmouth-led study finds.

The results suggest women’s electoral success requires a delicate balance between voters’ perception of traditional femininity and political competence. The study appeared in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and included researchers from UCLA and the University of Delaware.

The researchers used software called MouseTracker that was developed by the study’s senior author Jon Freeman, an assistant professor and director of the Social Cognitive and Neural Sciences Lab at Dartmouth. MouseTracker measures computer mouse movements during psychological experiments, revealing how participants’ real-time hand movements may be partially pulled toward various alternatives and how their psychological response evolves over time.

“Brain Pathways for Adaptive Goal Seeking” grant award.

Smith laboratory was awarded a 3-year research grant from the Whitehall Foundation. The award is to fund a project called “Brain Pathways for Adaptive Goal Seeking”. The project will use electrical recordings and optogenetics technology to understand how the brain makes goals valuable, and how that value can shift depending on internal states like changes in appetite. 

Whitehall Award Description: The Whitehall Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation which is focused exclusively on assisting basic research in vertebrate (excluding clinical) and invertebrate neurobiology in the United States.  Investigations should specifically concern neural mechanisms involved in sensory, motor, and other complex functions of the whole organism as these relate to behavior. The overall goal should be to better understand behavioral output or brain mechanisms of behavior.

2014 Graduate Student Poster Awards

Poster Title: "Head direction cell activity in the dorsal striatum and medial precentral cortext requires intact anterodorsal thalamic nuclei." 

"Max L. Mehlman, congratulations on being one of the winners of the 2014 Graduate Student Poster awards! As you may know, every year we contact the winners of the graduate student poster event & competition to request their winning poster for our display of Dartmouth student research posters in Kresge Library. This gallery also includes winning posters from the Wetterhahn Symposium / Undergraduate Research Poster Competition, so overall it is a great representation of a broad spectrum of student research at Dartmouth."

From announcement by Jane Quigley, Head, Kresge Physical Sciences Library.

Peter Tse '84 Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship

Peter Tse ’84, professor of psychological and brain sciences, is among 178 scholars, artists, and scientists in the United States and Canada awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for 2014.

The fellows are selected “on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” according to the foundation. Tse, who holds a PhD in cognitive psychology from Harvard, is the author of The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation (2013).

Tse and his students employ neuroscientific data, gathered using fMRI and other techniques, to show how free will might be realized in the brain.

The 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 (Pacific Standard)

Jon Freeman, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, is featured on  Pacific Standard’s list of the 30 “top thinkers” under the age of 30.“

"My work examines how we perceive other people through facial, vocal, and bodily cues, as well as how those perceptions are shaped by the larger social context,” Freeman tells Pacific Standard.

Freeman, the director of the Social Cognitive and Neural Sciences Lab at Dartmouth, says, “Being able to shed light on the mechanisms that underlie human experience and then share that knowledge with the research community and rest of the world keeps me going. It’s usually all quite a slow and intensive process, but reaching those moments of discovery are completely worth it.” 

Read the full story, published 4/6/14 by Pacific Standard.

Brain Scientist's Study of Neural Free Will Collects Honors

Professor Peter Tse ’84 has won two PROSE awards from the American Association of Publishers for his 2013 book, The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation, which argues there is a physical pathway for choice in the human brain. Tse’s work, published by MIT Press, won the Award for Excellence in Biological & Life Sciences and was also recognized in the Biomedicine & Neuroscience category. The association names annual PROSE award winners among professional and scholarly publications recognized as “pioneering works of research and for contributing to the conception, production, and design of landmark works in their fields.”

Read more at Dartmouth Now announcement.

Read one page summary of the book for non-scientists.

Network structure and dynamics of the mental workspace

Paper authored by Peter Tse and Alex Schiegel and published in the PNAS.

We do not know how the human brain mediates complex and creative behaviors such as artistic, scientific, and mathematical thought. Scholars theorize that these abilities require conscious experience as realized in a widespread neural network, or “mental workspace,” that represents and manipulates images, symbols, and other mental constructs across a variety of domains. Evidence for such a complex, interconnected network has been difficult to produce with current techniques that mainly study brain activity in isolation and are insensitive to distributed informational processes. The present work takes advantage of emerging techniques in network and information analysis to provide empirical support for such a widespread and interconnected information processing network in the brain that supports the manipulation of visual imagery.