This summer I had the unique opportunity to work in the Communications Neuroscience Lab, commonly known as the “CN Lab,” under Dr. Emily Falk and Dr. Yoona Kang. Prior to this research experience, I had no idea there was an interdisciplinary field like communications neuroscience. Looking back, it only makes sense that behavior – controlled and driven by the brain – affects the way messages are communicated. As a Biological Basis of Behavior major, I have learned about a variety of neuroscience topics, from learning about the body’s response to low blood pressure to the effects of different drugs on the central nervous system. Working in the CN Lab allowed me to apply this knowledge. For example, I was able to use groundbreaking technology like fNIRS to study neural activity in various areas of the brain. Participating in this research project afforded me the opportunity to study neuroscience from a different lens. In other words, I was able to apply the knowledge I learned in class in real time.
I was able to work on two projects this summer: the conclusion of “Can neuroscience help make better ad campaigns? Neural mechanisms of health behavior change,” and the beginning of a study analyzing interventions that aim to increase neural synchronization/coupling between a listener and a speaker. In this latter study, which is ongoing, the goal is to test whether interpersonal interactions can increase neural coupling and supportive behavioral outcomes. I scheduled and met with participants and ran through the experimental protocol, which involved operating the fNIRS apparatus. Participants came into our lab and we fitted them into an fNIRS cap, which would then display neural activity on our computer screen.
I was not only able to learn this technology, but I also gained a much greater understanding of research with human subjects. I look forward to applying the skills I learned this summer in my further neuroscience studies.