Kelly A. Derepentigny

How Do We Think?


 






This is one of the most intriguing questions in psychology. Neuroimaging techniques are one of the most powerful tools with which to investigate this question. The past few years have seen a tremendous increase in the use of these methods, particularly positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). However, while these techniques may both detail activity in the brain during the performance of a cognitive task, the methods employed by each are completely different. As such, it is necessary to determine that activation obtained by one method is equivalent to that obtained while using the other.

My senior thesis investigated this question. For a brief description, click here.

This research was conducted over the summer as part of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognitionís (CNBC) undergraduate summer program.  This is a ten week program that exposes students to the different topics regarding the brain and its contribution to cognition.  The areas covered included psychology, biology, computer science, and cognitive science.  Also, students conduct their own research project and present their findings at the end of the summer.  To see a list of this summer's abstracts, click here.  I worked with Dr. James Becker. To find out more about him and his interests, click here.

If you have any questions about this program or my thesis, please send me an e-mail at kederepe@anselm.edu


Abstract

The past few years have seen an increase in the use of neuroimaging techniques, particularly positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).  As these are still relatively new techniques, between-modality reliability has yet to be firmly established.  Prior research has identified activation in both the inferior temporal gyrus, particularly the fusiform gyrus, and the inferior frontal cortex during semantic memory tasks using PET.  In an effort to demonstrate between-modality reliability, four subjects were scanned with fMRI while performing a cognitive task.  Specifically, subjects completed both a lexical and object decision task as well as two different control tasks.  Both the lexical and object decision activated the inferior temporal gyrus relative to control.  However, activation was not seen in the inferior frontal cortex, perhaps due to the ease of the task.  The activation of the inferior temporal gyrus is consistent with previous data that suggests the inferior temporal gyrus has a specific role in the processing of semantic information.  This was the first step in developing an fMRI paradigm with which to study the deterioration of semantic memory structure and function in elderly patients with a degenerative neurological disease.  Future research should attempt to extend these findings to other cognitive tasks so that information gained from neuroimaging techniques can be applied to both normal and clinical populations.