Introduction to Our Research

Meet the people of the lab

C-G Arena & Data Download

Current and Past Projects

Theory Behind Our Research

Empirical Work

Dr. Jacob's Classes



Current Projects 

fMRI: (Ming Hsu
The goal of this project is two-fold. The first goal is to employ brain imaging techniques in order to understand the neuroanatomical correlates of learning and memory performance. The second goal is to find ways to enhance learning in memory-impaired patients by taking advantage of memory processes or cognitive systems that might be spared in such patients. We will evaluate the utility of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a tool for mapping the changes in patientsí learning strategies (and, presumably, brain function) that occur through the course of cognitive rehabilitation. 
Spatial Cognition and Hippocampal Lesions:(Kevin Thomas)
 This project is being conducted in collaboration with Professor Rus Bauer at the University of Florida. We plan to conduct several studies of patients in the Univerity of Florida Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. Those patients suffer from various forms of intractable epilepsy, the most common of which is complex partial epilepsy of the temporal lobe origin. At present, the program's surgical epilepsy database contains about 150 patients who have undergone, or who are being considered for, anterior temporal lobectomy. Our first study will involve C-G Arena testing of patients who have undergone such surgery and who have been post-surgically seizure free for at least 2 years. Subsequent studies will feature C-G Arena testing of patients at several times pre- and post-surgery. 
Emergency Room Project: (Holly Laurance
The Emergency Room study was designed to test a model of traumatic memory that predicts temporary functional amnesia will occur under traumatically stressful conditions. We were recruiting individuals admitted to the ER who have experienced a traumatic event. To rule out potential confounds, we required that the traumatic event occur shortly before data collection.
Database: (Holly Laurance
The database is a collection of all C-G Arena related data collected by the Anxiety Research Group since 1995, with 50+ experiments  and a huge number of subjects. You can find all questionnaire and arena data, along with an information file explaining more than you ever wanted to know about what we do.
Stress Study: (Holly Laurance
We examined the effects of exposure to an acute social stressor on place learning and memory in men and women. Study 1 showed that experience
with the Trier Social Stress Test disrupted both place learning within a computer-generated space and memory for that space in women.  Experience with the same stressor did not affect either place learning or memory for the computer-generated space in men. Study 2 found reported increases stress (whether due to TSST or not) disrupted place-learning and produced time distortions. Increases in reported stress, however, did not effect implicit memory, motor skills, or attention/working memory. These data (a) provide empirical support for theoretical work offered by Jacobs &  Nadel (1985, 1998, 1999a, b) Nadel & Jacobs (1996), and Jacobs et al., (1992), (b) suggest a novel approach to understanding the robust sex differences commonly reported for specific anxiety disorders (e.g., Kessler et al, 1994).

Study 2 found reported increases stress (whether due to TSST or not) disrupted place-learning and produced time distortions. Increases in reported stress, however, did not effect implicit memory, motor skills, or attention/working memory. These data provide empirical support for theoretical work offered by Jacobs & Nadel (2000).

Stress and Performance: A Pilot Study: (Karen Putnam
This study examines spatial navigation learning and performance under stress in a population of both expert and novice fighter pilots.  Spatial ability is measured by performance in a flight simultor as well as in the CG Arena.  Other behavioral measures will include Spielberger STAI, critical action procedures (CAPs), and reaction time on the tasks.  Physiological measures will include heart-rate and salivary cortisol.  Several related questionnaires will also be administered.
Children: (Holly Laurance
This project is designed to study spatial navigation and place learning abilities of children, between the ages of 3 to 13.  The goal of this study is to chart spatial cognitive abilities of children across age ranges (using the C-G Arena). We may eventually compare this data to data collected from children with disorders, such as Attention Deficit Disorder.
Ritalin, SSRIs, & Benzodiazepines: (Beth Kirsner, Geneva Vasquez, José Léon, & Alma Durazo) 
The focus of this study is to develop an understanding of how Ritalin, a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD, impacts upon human spatial cognition.  We simply asked the 1500 undergraduates that take our intro courses to tell us if they take (a) benzodiazepines, (b) SSRIs, or (c) one of the Ritalin-like substances. Those who said they did were recruited, brought into the lab, given a series of neuropsych tests, and were given the full C-G Arena procedure (yes, we checked when they last took the drug).  The latter was designed to examine momentary spatial 'intelligence' or spatial 'cognition' or, more accurately, place learning and memory as well as spatial (layout) memory. The data look something like this:  (a) No effect of benzo's on any of our measures (N=2), (b) Massive spatial deficits in the presence of Ritalin and the SSRIs on most of the subjects tested (N=12). Indeed, there is little evidence of place learning in these people at all (this matches the ideographic Ritalin stories that keep floating around the net). The probe trials (memory) are really bizarre.  It is as if these people know nothing about the space, and  (c) The three people on Ritalin *and* an antidepressant showed no detectable spatial deficits. We will expand this as soon as we get access to more people taking the medications. The third study will involve testing children's performance in the C-G Arena while they are on Ritalin and while they are on a Ritalin holiday.  We suspect that Ritalin may impact negatively upon the formation of cognitive maps in both children and adults.
Classical Conditioning (Eric Jackson)
It has been shown that stress enhances aversive learning (fear-conditioning) in male rats, while it disrupts aversive learning in female rats.  It is believed that this is the result of stress's effects on the amygdala.  We are attempting to replicate this finding in humans with a design that incorporates subthreshold (non-aware) presentation of fear-triggers.
Asthma Study (Holly Laurance)
Investigating the short- and long-term effects of asthma and asthma medications utilizing a neuropsychological battery to determine cognitive and behavioral strengths and weaknesses. This study is designed to test a model that predicts stress will have a major impact on the hippocampal structure, and to a lesser extent, the pre-frontal cortex. Participants will range in ages from 7 to 50.

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