Friday, March 20, 2015

URSP Student Paul Beatty Conducts An Assessment of Uncertainty and Decision Making using Electrophysiological Methods

My name is Paul Beatty and I am a student researcher within the Psychology/Neuroscience field. In addition to joining OSCAR, I have been participating in the Psychology Honors Program, which is a three-semester program dedicated to constructing an undergraduate thesis (working with a faculty member, conducting original research, and defending my findings in front of a three-member faculty committee). In general, my research investigates the neural basis of uncertainty and attention by using a neuroimaging technique known as electroencephalography (EEG).  

Simply stated, EEG allows researchers to observe and record highly sophisticated and complex patterns of electrical activity that occurs in the brain during cognitive tasks.  More specifically however, my current research investigates the relationship between numerous event-related potential (ERP) components known as the Correct Response Negativity (CRN) and the Error Related Negativity (ERN). Besides my normal class schedule, on a weekly basis, I write programming scripts using MATLAB, recruit participants for experimentation (using Sona Systems), run them through the experiment itself (which takes an average of 3 to 4 hours per person), conduct behavioral, electrophysiological, and statistical analyses, and work on a manuscript for publication.  In addition, I also attend regular lab meetings and participate in numerous other ongoing experiments and analyses in a lab that I volunteer. Since I am also an officer of the student-run organization “Students in Neuroscience”, I attend weekly journal club meetings, dive into the literature, and learn a variety of new research skills and techniques.  In fact, just this week, I have learned about numerous methodical aspects of Independent Component Analysis (ICA). All in all, each of these tasks has contributed to my long-term goal to continue to conduct EEG/ERP research in graduate school and academia.  In fact, I have been accepted as a PhD student in GMU’s Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience program under Dr. Craig McDonald.