The C-NERVE Experience

The continuing story of a small band of merry men and women creating an educational experience in cognitive-neuroscience at a (mostly) undergraduate university.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The news from last night:

The winner of the first semiannual Illusionator Trophy is...

...The CNERVE Students, with Christy in the hotseat. I'm sure she'll display it proudly.

For those of you who came in late, the Illusionator Trophy is given to the winner of the Faculty/Student Science Quiz, which takes place during the first full CNERVE meeting of each new semester. To win this trophy, the students scored 5 points to the faculties total of 4.

What is the Illusionator? Well, those of you who've spent any time in older psychology labs have probably come across one. It was a motorized device made by Lafayette Instruments, designed to present rotating stimuli to human subjects. These were widely used in the years before computer displays were widely available. Here is a picture:

OK, OK, I just got sucked in by one of those internet memes. The folks over at Scienceblogs are having a bit of a fight to prove who is the nerdiest. I couldn't resist when someone posted a nerd-test, so I went over to find out my score. According to this highly reliable and valid psychometric test, This is

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Click on the link to find out yours. To be fair, most of these people are math-engineering-physical sciences types, so I really didn't expect to score all that high, being a cognitive-neuroscience nerd. But, yes, my nerd score really was a 96. How did I score that high? Let's just say I never had much of a social life, and leave it at that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tonight we will have our first organizational meeting for new C-NERVE students and faculty. Just a getting-to-know-each-other meeting, with pizza and short presentations, plus a new feature: C-N Jeopardy. I'll post the links to those items after the meeting.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Found a very cool blog entry today, over at Neurophilosopher, on the topic of the history of the neuron doctrine.

Prepare to be amazed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

As we get close to the start of the Fall 06 semester, CNERVErs have been increasingly anxious. We all want to get this thing off to a good start. Here's what has developed in the summer:

1. Work finally began on a dedicated teaching lab on the second floor. We'll have a 550 sq ft room with about 10 Biopac setups. Those have been ordered, along with computers. Big problem is getting the University people responsible for facilities to get their work done. THis isn't to say they're dragging their feet, but they've got so many other things on their agenda, it's been hard getting them to complete the work downstairs, which admittedly was added rather late to their schedule. At any rate, we have a new estimate of when it'll be totally done: end of September. I think we might be able to work around that.

2. The proposal for the Minor and for our new cognitive neuroscience course are getting the finishing touches. First order of business will be to ge them considered by the department faculty. No idea of how long that'll take, but we have enough people in the department behind it already that we should at least be able to generate some early momentum. Jerry Kapus is also developing a "Philosophy of Mind" type of course, but I think he was doing that independently anyway. He's just linked up with us and will shape it a bit to fit with our overall goals so that our students might take the course.

3. There has been some movement from outside of our departments/school on the topic of funding. Apparently a number of people around here are looking to find NSF money or system-wide funding for a number of science-technology related curricular developments. One of these is something called the Institute for Discovery (I think) which may be a new pot of money which we might be able to tap into (don't know much about this though). The short version of the story is that we are all senesitive to the need to expand our funding base and are looking around carefully to find new sources. From early feedback, it seems that Cognitive Neuroscience may be regarded generally favorably, and so we may be positioned to ride the crest of a wave here. Who can say yet?

4. At our meeting the other day, CNERVE faculty discussed our research interests. Here they are, in a nutshell:
a. Ann Parsons: Food choices and decision making (an extension/expansion of some work she is already engaged in with the Nutrition people on campus)
b. Desiree Budd: A project which looks at the relationship of arousal and eyewitness memory. She'll be using HR/BP I think as an index of autonomic arousal, and having subjects put their hands in an icebath (a standard protocol for inducing arousal in human subjects) and then having them witness an event etc (using Gary Wells' materials I think)
c. Mike Donnelly (me): I'm going to be trying to use mechanical puzzles to create a laboratory analog for scientific problem solving, using EEG or perhaps ERP to look for neural correlates to various cognitive phenomena that happen during that process.
d. Peizhong Li: he's developing a program around the idea of group identity. Not sure where he's going with this yet.
e. Richard Tafalla: continuing his work with video games, I think Richard wants to explore the elements of video games that contribute to "presence" (the feeling that you are actually in the game environment) and then how these contribute to the intensity with which a person feels to violence in violent video games. Ultimately he is hoping to explore potential health effects (persistent enxiety, perhaps?) of felt violence (did I get that right Richard?)
That's sort of it for now. Two other CNERVErs--Jerry Kapus and Steve Deckelmen aren't really developing research projects as such, but I think are looking to integrate as teachers, collaborators, and colleagues. Given that Jerry is the philosopher, and Steve the mathmatician, they'll surely ad crucial elements to the CNERVE program.

5. On the downside, our current enrollment is about 10 students. We need to have double that number to meet the goals outlined in our proposal to NSF. We were hoping to attract a large number of females, but so far most of the interest is from male students. Perhaps this is an early sign of the resistance that results in overall lower participation in science by females generally? Whatever the case, we'll continue to push for a higher number of female students, and hope to achieve at least parity.

I have talked to other CNERVErs, and told them about this 'blog, so perhaps we'll be hearing from them directly, soon.

Friday, May 19, 2006

C-NERVE organizational meeting this morning

In attendance: Jerry, Richard, Anne, Desiree, Jo, and Mike (me). Oh, and Jo's four young children (and Ryann, yay!) It was like family time in there, I swear.

As I was telling Des a little later, these meetings are actually enjoyable. At this point, no one seems to be developing their own agenda, it's an "all for one, one for all" sort of atmosphere, so it's really wonderful.

We're trying to sort out two issues:

1. First up, do we need an "Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience" course? We have decided that we do, and that we'll be trying to make it as widely appealing as possible, so that we might get a lot of students in there who never intend to do the whole CNERVE/C-N Minor thing. Still, we might be able to use it to attract new students.

So hwo do we structure the course? Should it have a lab or not? Current thinking is that it'll have an optional lab I think. That's where students sign up for the lecture and the lab as separate line items.

2. What about the minor? What will be the required courses? The electives? Currently we're moving to develop a couple of courses that should fill some gaps for us. Jerry is developing a "philosophy of mind" type of course, which you see in a lot of programs. Also, Steve is putting together a proposal for a computational neuroscience type of course, which you also see a lot.

What remains is to decide how to handle the research component. How much should be required for the minor? Our examination of minors showed us that a lot of minors have research options (independent study that sort of thing) but few have a research requirement.

As a side issue, we've decided to go for some more funding for equipment: eye tracking and advanced EEG/ERP setups. We'll be looking to NSF for these funds.

We also talked about the pre-college program, which will happen four times in June/July. That'll be fun, and we even get a little pay to do it. Most of use would do it without pay, but getting a few dollars is nice, really. I'll describe that program in a later entry.

-Mike

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The inaugural meeting is over.

We had the chancellor, the provost, two deans, the C-NERVE faculty and about 8 students in attendance. Even Jo Hopp's 6 week old baby Ryann (sp?) turned up (with Mom, of course).

Desiree and I are excited, everyone seems interested at this point. Now we're entering the long summer season, and much needs to be accomplished. In a few weeks we'll be hosting the middle-school students for the summer college program, and we take them thru a three hour workshop on electrophysiology. We've created a demo version of the Guilty Knowledge Test, and we have a couple of "suspects" who get hooked up to a polygraph, and then we give them the third degree. Its a lot of fun. Really.

-Mike D.

Today is the start of something really cool.

Today is the day we kick off C-NERVE.

Today is the day we start helping scientists and educators bring cognitive-neuroscience to the masses, educationally speaking.

Until this point, American students who might be interested in this really cool and intensely fascinating new science had limited options available to them. They could choose from among the following:

a) they could enroll in one of the relatively elite universities or colleges in the U.S. that offers a program;

b) they could attempt to create a program of study on their own, out of the offerings found scattered across four or five programs in a typical university;

or c) they could read about it in magazines and books.

C-NERVE is an attempt to change that. What we hope to accomplish is to create a model program, one that might be adopted at a much broader array of colleges and universities nation-wide, that will enable a wider range of educators to bring cognitive-neuroscience to a wider range of students, and to bring more students to cognitive-neuroscience specifically, and science careers generally.

We have received NSF support for this mission (award details). We are grateful to their support, and the support of our home institution (UW-Stout) in this endeavor.

As part of their award, the reviewers and administrators made it clear that we need to think about ways to get out the message of our experience, to attempt to find a way to communicate our model to other institutions who may be seeking to do the same thing. This blog is an attempt to help us accomplish that goal.

So, what will be available here?

-personal stories and experiences, about the successes and the failures, written by the people of C-NERVE. Students, course instructors, lab directors, faculty.

-discussions of topics of current interest to our community specifically, and topics of general interest in the field of cognitive-neuroscience.

-discussions about the expanding applications of technologies developed by cognitive-neuroscientists, both in basic and applied research, in the public and private sectors.

-discussions of the employment environment that exists for colege graduates with a background in cognitive-neuroscience.

Before I finish this, the first post I need to issue a little

DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this blog is generate involvement among a community of like-minded individuals, by allowing collective participation in a common location, on an agreed upon topic--cognitive neuroscience. As part of that participation, what you can expect here are thoughts, musings, and open discussion, which means that much of what you read will be half-formed, ill-reasoned, or whatever. The materials you find on this blog are not to be considered authoritative, or in any sense, a final product of the C-NERVE group. Anything posted here should be considered the personal work or views of the individual who posted them, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the National Science Foundation, of the University of Wisconsin system, of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, or of the home departments of the faculty and students who participate in C-NERVE. That said, as the site administrator, I will reserve the right to "clean up" the site, to remove materials that are patently offensive or otherwise inappropriate for the subject matter of this site.

A Final Question:

How long will this take? C-NERVE at this point in time is scheduled for a three year run. We hope to use the first three years to build a permanent program of some kind. So long as C-NERVE exists, so will this blog. We hope that you can use it in some positive manner, and we'll be very interested to know if it helps you in some way. So be sure to drop us a line.

-Mike D.