Undergraduate Research Day 2012

Undergraduate Research Day 2012

Another incredibly successful Undergraduate Research Day! This year's student presenters (including the poster presenters) were outstanding, and many thanks to all who mentored our DIS and Honors students. And, a big round of applause for the many people who contributed to making the event the great success that it was, and many thanks to Dr. Barb Licht for organizing and overseeing the celebration of our undergraduate students' research accomplishments and for her tireless efforts in support of our students.

2012-1st Place   Baileigh Hightower

Baileigh Hightower won the first place Howard Baker Undergraduate Research Award for her Honors Thesis, "The Effects of Kynurenic Acid on Cognitive Flexibility and Working Memory: A Possible Biomarker for Cognitive Impairments Associated with Schizophrenia." Her research investigated how kynurenic acid, a tryptophan metabolite related to the neurotransmitter serotonin, impacted executive function in rodents, with the goal to elucidate possible biological correlates involved in cognitive impairments observed in schizophrenia. She utilized two well-validated models of these dissociable aspects of executive function, and her results suggested that elevated levels of kynurenic acid in the brain induced a broader cognitive impairment that may have relevance for multiple neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and bipolar disorder. Baileigh had the wonderful opportunity to present her honors thesis at the 2011 annual international Society for Neuroscience meeting this year. In Spring 2012, she was awarded the FSU Kingsbury Undergraduate Writing Award for her Honors thesis manuscript.

Baileigh graduated in Spring 2012 and will be joining the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at FSU as a Neuroscience Fellow in Fall 2012, working towards her Ph.D. We expect great things from Baileigh!

2012-Psi Chi Best Poster   Heather Davis

Heather Davis received the Psi Chi Best Poster Award at the Department of Psychology's 2012 Undergraduate Research Day for her Honors Thesis, "An Examination of a Nonpurging Compensatory Eating Disorder." For her thesis, Heather developed an original study to examine the clinical significance and distinctiveness of an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), a nonpurging compensatory eating disorder (CED). This syndrome is characterized by recurrent fasting and/or excessive exercising in the absence of objectively large binge episodes among normal weight individuals who endorse body image disturbance. Compared with healthy exercising and dieting controls, women with CED reported significantly greater body image disturbance and disordered eating. As for eating disorder risk factors, CED was associated with higher anxiety, increased perfectionism, greater weight suppression, and higher weight in high school. These findings support that CED is a clinically significant eating disorder, and the configuration of risk factors may explain why women with CED fast and excessively exercise but maintain a normal weight and do not binge.

Heather graduated in Spring 2012, and will be working as a research coordinator for Dr. Pam Keel. After that, she plans to pursue doctoral studies in clinical psychology and focus her research on eating disorders. We expect great things from Heather!

2012-2nd Place   Dana Boebinger

Dana Boebinger won the second place Howard Baker Undergraduate Research Award for her honors thesis, "Are Implicit Learning Abilities in Language and Music Related?" This research, which was supported by one of Florida State's Bess H. Ward Honors Thesis Awards, investigated how people learn about the structure of both language and music. Using two invented languages, so-called "artificial grammars" one consisting of nonsensical syllables and the other of non-Western musical chords Dana examined whether a single ability governs the way people learn language and music, and whether this ability correlates with a more general implicit learning ability.

Dana successfully defended her thesis in January 2012, and she presented her thesis three more times that spring at Florida State's Undergraduate Research Symposium, at the Atlantic Coast Conference's annual Meeting of the Minds, and as part of the Psychology Department Undergraduate Research Day. She also had the honor of being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and receiving the Marion Jewell Hay Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research, which is given to only one graduating senior at FSU each semester.

Dana graduated in Spring 2012, and will spend the summer working as a research assistant in an auditory cognitive neuroscience lab in Montreal, Canada, using MRI to look at the brain structure of dancers and musicians. From there, she will travel to England as a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar to complete a one-year Master of Science program in cognitive neuroscience at University College London. Afterward, Dana will return to the US to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. We expect great things from Dana!

2012-3rd Place   Jeremy Harper

Jeremy Harper won the third place (tied) Howard Baker Undergraduate Research Award for his Honors Thesis, which involved decomposing event-related potentials (ERPs) into separable theta- and delta-band components using time-frequency (TF) analysis. Broadly, this line of research evaluates the electrophysiological indicators of action monitoring, executive functioning, and cognitive control. Jeremy's study investigated the electrocortical indices of response inhibition and evaluated the contributions of TF theta and delta phase dynamics to the ERP components. Results indicated that TF theta and delta separately indexed demands of response inhibition, and that their respective oscillatory dynamics differentially affected the ERP experimental effects. His findings support the hypothesis that TF analysis offers a more detailed and rich explanation of electroencephalogram (EEG) signals than traditional ERP measures, and that ERPs are parsimoniously reflected by separable theta and delta activity whose phase dynamics play an important role in ERP responses and cognitive control.

Jeremy graduated in Spring 2012 and will apply to Clinical Psychology graduate school in the fall. In the meantime, he will continue working on research investigating the electrocortical processes associated with learning and executive functioning in Dr. Edward Bernat's lab. His goal is to utilize psychophysiological measures (e.g., EEG, fMRI) to investigate the functional neuroanatomy of anxiety disorders and depression and continue researching advanced EEG signal processing techniques in the future. We expect great things from Jeremy!

2012-3rd Place   Rebekah Landbeck

Rebekah Landbeck won the third place (tied) Howard Baker Undergraduate Research Award for her Honors Thesis, which built upon previous work seeking to develop early interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is well-established that performing a visuospatial task during a distressing film reduces intrusive memories from that film during the next week. Recent research has shown that a visuospatial task (Tetris) performed half an hour after the film reduced intrusions relative to a no-task control. If such tasks after real trauma also reduce intrusions, they could be early interventions for PTSD. Rebekah aimed to replicate the Tetris results with a distraction control and compare the effect of an executive control task to that of Tetris. Both tasks resulted in increased intrusions, supporting her hypothesis that visuospatial and executive control tasks would have similar effects. However, the effects were in the opposite direction of that predicted, suggesting that the no-task condition used in previous studies may not have been an adequate control.

Rebekah will present her thesis at the 2012 Association for Psychological Science Convention. After graduating in Spring 2013, she will pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and a research career in which she will continue to explore the intersection of clinical and cognitive psychology. We expect great things from Rebekah!