Fall 2020

In Fall 2020, students were forced to take a remote version of the course due to the Covid19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this meant that students were unable to design and run their own original study. Instead, students developed original research questions and conducted secondary data analysis projects using data that was publicly available on OpenNeuro. One student worked with the naturalistic Paranoia dataset Finn et al., 2018. The other group worked with a dataset in which participants underwent three separate scanning sessions to evaluate brain responses to pictures of social interactions, food, or flower following a 10-hour food deprivation, social-isolation, or baseline manipulation Tomova et al., 2020.

Similarities in Brain Activation Patterns After Social Isolation and Food Deprivation

Liza Begunova, Xiao Li, Kenny Nguyen, Max Ranger, and Chelsea Rafferty

Similarities in neural responses can often arise from seemingly unrelated experimental tasks; recently, Tomova et al. (2020) found that when people are forced to be isolated from one another, their brain activation patterns demonstrate that they crave social interactions in the same way that they crave food after prolonged fasting. Particularly, substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA) activity was higher in people who self-reported wanting food or social interaction more, following deprivation. We conducted additional analyses to both confirm and expand the findings of Tomova et al. (2020), including a univariate and pattern similarity analysis. A prediction modeling pattern analysis was conducted on data from Tomova et al.’s (2020) cue-induced craving (CIC) task in order to explore whether there were significant effects of task type and session on the reward value of a given stimulus. Finally, an inter-subject representational similarity analysis (IS-RSA) was computed to identify regions of the brain related to the processing of social images after a period of social isolation. The univariate analysis reaffirmed that there is significant activation of the SN/VTA across both the isolation and craving conditions, while a pattern similarity analysis demonstrated that, across both conditions, additional activation patterns in the motor cortex/putamen/basal ganglia exhibit high correlation values. The prediction modeling pattern analysis supported the idea that the reward processing system in the brain is more similar than not, regardless of the stimulus type being evaluated. IS-RSA results suggested that, in the context of social reward processing, individuals who are more similar in their social interactions are more similar in their patterns of neural activity.

See their presentation.

Nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs: An investigation into syntactical localization using fMRI

Rachel McLaughlin

Part of speech analysis forms an important part of linguistic, psychological, and neuroscientific studies of language. A wide variety of studies have shown various active regions when discriminating between nouns and verbs, but few have looked at naturalistic paradigms. Using the dataset provided in Finn et al. (2018), I examined the neural correlates of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Through univariate contrast analysis, I found preferential activation for nouns bilaterally in the posterior portion of the inferior temporal gyrus, as well as the left superior temporal gyrus and angular gyrus. Verbs activated the bilateral temporal poles, as well as the cerebellum. Adjectives showed increased activation in the right hemisphere, while adverbs showed few preferred regions. Nouns and verbs together showed strong activation in the left superior temporal gyrus as compared to adjectives and adverbs. Using Multivariate Pattern Analysis (MVPA), my Support Vector Machine (SVM) was able to predict part of speech with 80-84% accuracy. These findings provide promising evidence that part of speech can be localized using naturalistic language paradigms.

See her presentation.