Prosopagnosics have widespread selectivity reductions

Authors: Guo Jiahui, Hua Yang, and Bradley Duchaine

People with developmental prosopagnosia (DP) have extremely poor face recognition and even have problems recognizing the faces of family and close friends. Jiahui Guo and colleagues carried out a comprehensive investigation of the neural basis of DP by comparing brain responses to multiple visual categories in DPs and people with normal face processing. The DPs showed widespread abnormalities in areas specialized for face processing and areas that respond preferentially to scenes and bodies. The abnormalities in scene and body areas indicate cortical problems in many DPs extend beyond face areas and open the door to investigations of developmental disorders impacting recognition of categories other than faces.

Article appears in July 2018 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study Examines Why People are Always Thinking About Themselves

People are preoccupied with themselves. We spend a lot of time talking about ourselves in conversation, posting about ourselves on social media, and even thinking about ourselves when we should be paying attention in class.  Assistant Professor Meghan Meyer and Matt Lieberman (UCLA) revealed a brain mechanism that biases people toward self-focus, providing the first neural explanation of why people frequently circle back to themselves.

PBS Professor Meghan Meyer's recent paper originally published in Cerebral Cortex was highlighted in Scientific American.

2018 Neuroscience Day at Dartmouth

Join us for the 32nd Annual Neuroscience Day at Dartmouth College!

This day-long event highlights neuroscience research contributions at Dartmouth and features expert talks, a poster session, a panel discussion, and a keynote lecture. Free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided to those who have registered by the registration close date. For more information and to register to attend visit:

This year’s theme is “Mind & Machine”, and features a keynote talk by Dr. Rosalind Picard (MIT), who develops "wearable sensors, algorithms, and systems for sensing, recognizing, and responding respectfully to human affective information”.  Dr. Picard will also participate with Dartmouth Neuroscientists in a panel discussion focused on the use and development of technology to measures and/or manipulates the nervous system to enhance perception, cognition, and/or behavior. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM



Study focuses on connections between friends

Associate Professor Thalia Wheatley and her former graduate student Carolyn Parkinson, now an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at the similarities between friends.  Professor Wheatley was quoted in "The Independent", "We are social species and live our lives connected to everybody else.  If we want to understand how the human brain works, then we need to understand how brains work in combination--how minds shape each other."  See the full article in The Independent online.

The study has also been featured in the New York Times: You Share Everything With Your Bestie. Even Brain Waves.

Additional coverage was published in Discover Magazine online.

Dr. Sheena Josselyn delivers the 2018 Leaton Lecture

On January 26, 2018 the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences welcomed Dr. Sheena Josselyn as this year’s Leaton Lecturer in Behavioral Neuroscience. Dr. Josselyn presented a tour-de-force colloquium entitled “Making Memories,” that brought to bear state of the art neurogenetic, optogenetic, and calcium imaging techniques to answer age-old questions regarding the biological mechanisms supporting the ‘engram,’ or the representation of a memory in the brain. Dr. Josselyn is a Professor in the departments of Psychology, Physiology and the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto and is a Canada Research Chair in Brain Circuits and Memory. Dr. Josselyn is also a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Studies. In addition to field-leading research, she is also passionate about high quality mentoring of young scientists and graduate education, a topic she also addressed during her visit. Dr. Josselyn was the eleventh Leaton Lecturer, an colloquium dedicated each year to Professor Emeritus Robert Leaton.

Hudenko wins 2017 Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching

The Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning has awarded PBS Adjunct Assistant Professor William Hudenko the 2017 Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching.  Professor Hudenko earned this award along with Dr. Sara Chaney, an Instructor in the Institute of Writing and Rhetoric, for their course, "Autism: The Science, Story and Experience."  The Apgar award recognizes and supports innovative teaching initiatives that cross traditional academic boundaries, and is made possible by a gift from Mahlon Apgar, IV D' 62 and Sarah Tipper Apgar, Tu '11.

For the full announcement and a description of the course, see the full story on the DCAL website.

Welcoming Assistant Professor Meghan Meyer to PBS

Assistant Professor Meghan Meyer joined the PBS Faculty in July, 2017.  She completed her Ph.D. at UCLA and post-doctoral training at Princeton University.  Professor Meyer’s research focuses on integrating social and cognitive neuroscience to understand what drives our ability and need to think about the social world around us.  Using brain imaging and behavioral methods she aims to answer questions such as: How do we juggle multiple social cognitive demands on the fly? How do we learn and consolidate information about the people and groups with whom we interact?  Why do the negative and positive experiences with people from our past seem to linger with us, either by haunting us with pain or consuming us with nostalgia?  For more about Professor Meyer’s research, visit her lab website.

This year, Professor Meyer will be teaching PSYC 23 – Social Psychology in the Winter 2018 term, and a new culminating seminar PSYC 83.07 - The Problem of Other Minds in Spring 2018.

Assistant Professor Kyle Smith is a "Scientist to Watch"

The Scientist magazine featured PBS Assistant Professor Kyle Smith as a "Scientist to Watch" in their November 2017 edition.  Professor Smith joined the faculty at Dartmouth in 2013, and research in his lab focuses on reward response and habit formation.

From The Scientist article:

"When Kyle Smith was a kid, he didn’t like science. “I didn’t do very well” in the subject, he says. As an undergraduate at Indiana University, he initially saw himself going into film or television production, but he says the jump to psychology with a neuroscience bent wasn’t really such a big one. With film, “basically you start out with nothing, come up with an idea, figure out how to get it done, be creative, make it interesting to people. . . . push boundaries, [which] is exactly the same kind of thing I’ve found in science,” Smith says."

Read the full article online.

Learning adjusts to the environment but sub-optimally

Value-based decision making often involves integration of reward outcomes over time, but this becomes considerably more challenging if reward assignments on alternative options are probabilistic and non-stationary. Despite the existence of various models for optimally integrating reward under uncertainty, the underlying neural mechanisms are still unknown. Here we propose that reward-dependent metaplasticity (RDMP) can provide a plausible mechanism for both integration of reward under uncertainty and estimation of uncertainty itself. We show that a model based on RDMP can robustly perform the probabilistic reversal learning task via dynamic adjustment of learning based on reward feedback, while changes in its activity signal unexpected uncertainty. The model predicts time-dependent and choice-specific learning rates that strongly depend on reward history. Key predictions from this model were confirmed with behavioral data from non-human primates. Overall, our results suggest that metaplasticity can provide a neural substrate for adaptive learning and choice under uncertainty.

Study: Teens' View of Fairness Shifts as Brain Develops

September 20, 2017 by Office of Public Affairs

Research links cortical thinning over time to the ability to consider others’ intentions.

When it comes to the concept of fairness, teenagers’ ability to consider the intentions of others appears to be linked to structural changes in the brain, according to a study led by Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Luke Chang.

The research found that cortical thinning of specific areas of the brain from youth into young adulthood corresponded to the transition from an emphasis on equality in all transitions to a more complex consideration of the intentions of others in exchanges. This developmental change in the social brain continued through late adolescence, the researchers said.

“We were surprised that this shift in preference for considering others’ intentions occurred so late in development,” Chang says. “This finding has potential implications regarding how much autonomy this age group should be given when making important social and ethical decisions, such as purchasing weapons, going to war, and serving on juries.”