NSF Grant Expands Brain Research Options for Scripps Students

by Anne Manicke '13

Older people are more positive than younger people, research shows. What is it about the way the two age groups process information that causes this? Scripps College senior Kate Wiley hopes to answer this question by investigating brain activity in the young and elderly for her thesis project. A psychology major, Wiley has been working with brainwave recording in the Scripps College Electrophysiology Laboratory, which is about to experience an enormous increase in capability due to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Soon Scripps College students will have a much more powerful tool at their disposal for innovative research.

The NSF has awarded Scripps College $411,008 to create a state-of-the-art laboratory for student-faculty research on human cognitive functioning using high-density electroencephalography (EEG) to explore brain activity. The laboratory will be housed at Scripps College and shared by psychology faculty and students from Claremont McKenna and Pitzer Colleges. The grant is effective from October 1, 2010, through September 30, 2013.

Such a sophisticated EEG system is quite rare to have at an undergraduate college, as most machinery for brain imaging is too large and too expensive to be used in undergraduate education. This new equipment will make “big science” accessible to students in behavioral neuroscience.

Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga said: “This NSF grant enhances the already significant interdisciplinary neuroscience research taking place at Scripps College. Although we are a small, liberal arts college, our enviable membership in The Claremont Colleges allows us to provide our students cutting-edge scientific resources typically found only at larger universities.”

It is a coup for Scripps College to have its proposal funded, as only a small percentage of the applications submitted to the National Science Foundation are chosen for funding.

Faculty involved in the grant proposal include Alan Hartley, Michael Spezio, Stacey Wood at Scripps; Gabriel Cook and Cathy Reed at Claremont McKenna; David Moore at Pitzer; and David Leland at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

In anticipating the arrival of the new system, Wiley said, “I expect it will attract psychology and neuroscience students to do more EEG research, which is a privilege usually only [available at] large universities or for graduate students.”

 

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