Cognition & Behavior

Participating Faculty

Drs. Bruno G. Breitmeyer, Stacey Gorniak, Merrill Hiscock, Anne Jaap Jacobson, Ben H. Jansen, Haluk Ogmen, Bhavin Sheth


The research of center members in this area addresses issues concerned with the understanding of disorders that include epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism. In addition, work by these center members has engaged classical topics, such as those of unconscious processes, representation and emotion. Dr. Jansen’s group has also been involved in the new field of neural prosthesis development.

Dr. Breitmeyer’s current areas of research interest include (1) Visual masking and the microgenetic analysis of object perception as it relates to unconscious and conscious visual processing of form, color and emotionally significant information. (2) Visual function in schizophrenia. (3) Hemispheric and hemifield differences in spatial vision. His active and collaborative research program includes colleagues in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Houston, in the Psychology Departments at Rice University and the University of Georgia, and the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Gorniak’s current areas of interest include (1) bimanual upper extremity function in ecological tasks (2) the interaction between motor behavior and cognition, and (3) the effect of neurological disorders on cognition and sensorimotor function.  Specifically, Dr. Gorniak is interested in evaluating neurological conditions that have not been previously regarded as ‘movement disorders’. Her collaborative research efforts include colleagues in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Houston, the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at the Baylor College of Medicine, and in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Cleveland Clinic.

The topics addressed by Dr. Hiscock’s work include (1) Cognition and neural support of cognition. Signal detection studies concerning shifts of auditory attention, with Daniel Voyer of the University of New Brunswick; studies of asymmetries of interference between concurrent activities, with Jerome Silvio Caroselli of The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in the Texas Medical Center; event-related potentials (ERP) study of the brain basis of asymmetries in dichotic listening, dissertation by Rosario DeLeon with involvement of Ben Jansen, George Zouridakis, and Monica McHenry of UH; studies of categorical and coordinate spatial judgments with Bruno Breitmeyer. (2) Developmental disorders. Comparison of behavioral characteristics of children with epilepsy and children with Sturge-Weber syndrome, M.A. thesis by Darcy Raches with supervision by Lynn Chapieski of Baylor College of Medicine; study of interventions for sleep disorders in children, dissertation by Stacey Eckert with supervision by Lynn Chapieski of Baylor College of Medicine. (3) Mental disorders and emotion. Series of experiments with the Iowa Gambling Task as a putative measure of impaired decision making and abnormal integration of emotion and cognition in ventromedial frontal lobes, with Jerome Silvio Caroselli of The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, Texas Medical Center.

Dr. Jacobson’s recent research has focused on neural representations. A large and unsolved problem for theoretical cognitive neuroscience has concerned providing a clear understanding of mental representations. In a series of recent articles and lectures, Jacobson has argued that the classical conception of representation, adopted by early cognitive science from work on computer programs, fails to characterize the neural representations that are needed to account for the brain basis of a wide range of activities, from concepts through emotion and perception. Her work is described in Keeping the World in Mind:  Mental Representations in a Science of the Mind (in press, Palgrave Macmillan).  She has also been a member of the implicit bias workshop at Sheffield University, UK., and is a visiting scholar at Somerville College, Oxford, for the summer term, 2012-2014.  Her co-edited Neurofeminism (2012, Palgrave Macmillan)  is also part of her work on social inequality 

Dr. Jansen and his students work on the development and application of advanced digital signal analysis tools for evoked potential (EP) analysis. Their research has shown that stimulus-induced phase synchronization of the ongoing EEG is a major mechanism for the generation of auditory EP components with latency in the 50 ms to 250 ms range, and that this mechanism is deficient in patients suffering from schizophrenia. Current work is focused on understanding inter- and intra-subject variability, and its causes, in auditory EP activity in normal and schizophrenia subjects. Another project aims at developing a brain-machine interface (BMI) to provide a communication option for those with severe neuromuscular impairments. The BMI utilizes the P300 component of the event related potential (ERP, the brain's electrical response to external sensory stimuli). The P300 is a relatively large positive wave occurring about 300 ms following presentation of a 'meaningful' stimulus. We are developing signal analysis methods to detect the P300 on a single trial basis. One method, using a combination of the PPM and thresholding achieved 80% correct detections. We are currently exploring matched filtering and pattern recognition methods to improve on this performance. The single trial P300 detection method has also been proven useful in quantifying differences in P300 morphology between normal and schizophrenia populations.