Current Research

The following are Nebraska faculty who conduct MRI research at CB3. Information about their current projects is coming soon!

Steven Barlow

Special Education and Communication Disorders
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Angela Dietsch

Special Education and Communication Disorders
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Dr. Dietsch and her team at the Sensorimotor Integration for Communication and Swallowing (SISC) laboratory are investigating how the movements for swallowing, voice, and speech are controlled, and how sensory input such as taste, texture, and sound may influence these movements. The inability to communicate effectively or swallow safely has devastating effects on the health and quality of life of affected individuals. Despite this, treatment options for communication and swallowing disorders (dysphagia) are limited and there is little evidence to support whether, how, or why they work, nor which types of patients might best benefit from any given intervention. Neuroimaging is an important tool in identifying and evaluating new diagnostic and therapeutic options.

One line of inquiry focuses on elucidating the brain pathways that regulate speech movements under higher versus lower effort demands, with the goal of identifying strategies to ameliorate speech deterioration associated with neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

A second set of studies assesses the effects of taste stimuli on brain activity and swallowing biomechanics to determine whether they can be used to improve swallowing movements while simultaneously enhancing brain activity in key areas related to swallowing. This will contribute to faster and more complete brain recovery (neuroplasticity) and thus swallowing recovery.


Ingrid Haas

Political Science
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Ingrid Haas, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Political Science, Resident Faculty in the Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior, and Director of the Political Attitudes and Cognition (PAC) Lab. The PAC Lab uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural underpinnings of political attitudes and behavior, and how the process of political evaluation is influenced by emotion, motivation, and social identity. Current projects are investigating the neural response to uncertainty, and how this response differs when uncertainty is attached to negative versus positive affect or emotion. Our interest is primarily focused on understanding neural regions implicated in social, affective, and evaluative processing, such as the amygdala, insula, anterior cingulate, and regions of prefrontal cortex. We are interested in how neural activation in these regions gives rise to social and political behavior and mediates the impact of emotion on political behavior.

Dr. Haas earned her doctoral degree in Social Psychology from The Ohio State University. She was trained in social cognitive and affective neuroscience in Dr. William Cunningham’s lab at Ohio State, and completed additional training in fMRI at the MGH/MIT/HMS Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Boston, Massachusetts.


Matthew Johnson

Psychology
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Art Maerlender

Psychology
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Dennis Molfese

Psychology
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Maital Neta

Psychology
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Dr. Neta is the director of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. She received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Dartmouth College in 2010, where she was mentored by Paul Whalen. She then spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at Washington University, where she was mentored by Steve Petersen.

Dr. Neta is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and is a faculty member in the Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior (CB3). Her research capitalizes on a number of methods from psychology and neuroscience to examine ambiguity resolution in the domain of emotional facial expressions. Specifically, although some expressions provide clear predictive information that something good (e.g., happy) or bad (e.g., angry) will happen, other expressions, like surprise, have predicted both positive (e.g., birthday party) and negative (e.g., car accident) events for us in the past. When presented in the absence of contextual information, these ambiguously valenced expressions can be used to delineate a valence bias: ambiguous stimuli are stably interpreted negatively by some people and positively by others. We have previously demonstrated that the “initial, automatic” interpretation is negative (i.e., even for people who eventually interpret the expression as positive). Positive interpretations may then require an additional regulatory process in the brain that overrides this initial negativity — one that only some individuals adopt naturally. Interestingly, children show a stronger negativity bias than adults, which is likely attributable to weaker regulatory mechanisms in children. The goal of our research is to use state-of-the-art brain imaging and analysis techniques to advance the understanding of the biological mechanisms of the valence bias (i.e., the tendency for an individual to interpret surprise as positive or negative). Specifically, we examine the behavioral and neural responses to ambiguously valenced images and to explicit emotion regulation, in order to draw a link between the valence bias and brain connectivity and function (e.g., brain reactivity in bottom-up emotion or top-down regulation regions) across the lifespan. By identifying the mechanisms underlying this bias, this research supports the broad, long-term objective of developing new approaches to predict, prevent, and treat the negativity bias associated with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.


Yingying Wang

Special Education and Communication Disorders
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Yingying Wang, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor specializing in utilizing advance Neuroimaging techniques such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI) and Electroencephalograms (EEGs) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study brain development during literacy and language acquisition. Dr. Wang finished her two-year post-doctoral fellowship in Dr. Nadine Gaab's Lab at Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School in the end of 2015. She compared brain image data from children with a family history of dyslexia with those without a family history. She found brain alterations in white matter integrity even before reading onset. With that and behavioral measures and family history, she theorizes that brain imaging data can help to identify children at risk for developing reading disabilities even before 2nd/3rd grade, which opens a huge potential to implement early intervention programs to help those at-risk children to learn compensation strategies. She is also exploring the relationship between executive function and reading ability in children using fMRI with a longitudinal study design.

Dr. Wang earned her doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering under Dr. Scott K. Holland's mentorship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital/University of Cincinnati in the end of 2013. Her dissertation titled "Integration of fMRI and MEG towards modeling language networks in the brain" aimed to fuse fMRI and MEG data to optimize spatial and temporal resolution of imaging data. Her long-standing interest is the evolution of language network and how language network varies among individuals. By combining fMRI and MEG data using a Bayesian frame work, she can tap into the dynamic changes of brain networks instead of static functional brain regions.