DR. BERNARD IS ACCEPTING GRADUATE STUDENTS FOR 2020-2021. PLEASE EMAIL HER IF YOU’RE INTERESTED OR IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION.
The Lifespan Cognitive and Motor Neuroimaging Lab (LCMN) is directed by Dr. Jessica Bernard, and is part of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University. Research in the lab focuses on how a brain structure called the cerebellum contributes to motor and cognitive behavior in aging populations. Our goal is to better characterize cerebellar changes over time with age, in conjunction with understanding how the cerebellum interacts with the rest of the brain. The cerebellum is located at the bottom and back of the brain, and is important for coordinating motor behavior as well as our thoughts. However, there are differences in this structure in older adults, and this is related to how older individuals perform both motor and cognitive tasks.
In addition, the LCMN is interested in better understanding cerebellar contributions to cognition more broadly. Increasingly, a role for the cerebellum in non-motor behavior has been demonstrated, but how exactly the cerebellum is contributing, and its contributions relative to the rest of the brain remain unknown. We are trying to discern the relative contributions of the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex to cognitive behaviors, to create better models and theories about behavioral performance.
Recently, our work on aging was featured on KBTX. To see a video describing our work, and to read a bit more about what we do, please check out the piece here.
Finally, the LCMN is also interested in brain differences across the psychosis spectrum. This includes work with adolescents and young adults at high risk for developing a psychotic disorder, but primarily focuses on schizophrenia, taking advantage of large-scale publicly available data sets.
The LCMN lab incorporates a variety of methodologies to investigate these topics. We use brain imaging which includes functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and resting state network connectivity (fcMRI) to understand brain function and networks , as well as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and structural imaging to investigate white matter networks and brain volume. The lab also uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) which allows us to temporarily and safely alter the activity in different brain regions. Finally, we employ a variety of behavioral measures to investigate motor and cognitive function. This includes postural sway assessment using a state-of-the-art force plate, as well as motor learning tasks, and computerized cognitive tasks.