** Please contact Dr. Geier HERE for an up-to-date, detailed list of current research projects and opportunities!
The complex construct of ‘risk taking’ is predicated on decision-making, particularly in the context of salient rewards. Decision-making is often considered to be comprised of constituent processes, including 1) evaluating and forming preferences of available options, 2) holding internal representations of options and possible outcomes in working memory, 3) selecting one option while inhibiting competing alternatives, 4) anticipating the outcome, and 5) receiving/evaluating the outcome.
Research in the DCN laboratory, directed by Dr. Charles Geier, aims to characterize developmental change in basic affective and cognitive brain mechanisms that underlie components of decision-making in adolescence. In particular, we are interested in understanding brain systems that mediate anticipatory and consummatory (outcome) responses to incentives (rewards, losses) and how these relate to the development of cognitive control, including inhibitory control and working memory. We are also keenly interested in how risky behaviors, such as cigarette smoking, might be more rewarding to adolescents than adults and how this, in combination with limitations in cognitive control, might lead to initial experimentation with the drug and dependence. The conceptual model that guides much of our research is that it is the interaction between incentive (reward, punishment) processing and basic cognitive control abilities, both of which are still maturing in adolescence, that sets the stage for (suboptimal) decision making and risk taking, including substance use. Moreover, we believe that further understanding the interaction between rewards and cognitive control across development will shed light on other key health-related issues, including consummatory behaviors and obesity.
In our studies, we utilize convergent evidence collected from behavioral and cognitive neuroscience methodologies. In several studies, we used oculomotor (eye movement) paradigms with added cognitive demands to investigate developmental changes in higher-order voluntary behavior. Two primary oculomotor tasks used in our work are the antisaccade (AS) task and the oculomotor delayed response (ODR) task (also referred to as the memory-guided saccade task). To examine the underlying neural circuitry supporting behavior on these tasks, we use fast (rapid), event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques as well as resting state fMRI. These tools allow for the simultaneous characterization of developmental differences in widely distributed brain systems. We are particularly interested in estimating and comparing the shapes of hemodynamic time courses across age groups and conditions (task based fMRI) and exploring functional connectivity across major brain networks. A major benefit of this approach is the ability to identify both developmental similarities and differences in functional brain networks.
An emerging line of inquiry in the lab is to characterize the neurocircuitry supporting habitual behavior in adolescents and young adults. We utilize a number of different experimental paradigms (e.g., devaluation task, PIT) along with functional MRI (task and resting) to address this issue.
Dr. Beatriz Luna
Dr. Kathleen Keller
Dr. Suzy Scherf
Dr. Stephen Wilson
Dr. C. Daryl Cameron
Dr. Jose Soto
Dr. Robert Roeser
Dr. Dahlia Mukherjee
... and many more!
"Fundamentally, our work is focused on understanding the links between brain development and behavior during adolescence and young adulthood. Some examples of broad research questions we tackle in the lab include: How does neural development during adolescence contribute to risky decision making and behaviors? How does exposure to nicotine through smoking cigarettes affect adolescent and adult reward and cognitive control systems? How does goal-directed behavior evolve into habitual behavior during adolescence?"