See Master thesis

Cognitive Psychology

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MASTER THESIS

  • MCP1 - DANCING WITH YOUR HANDS AND FEET: REPRESENTATIONS OF MOTOR SEQUENCE KNOWLEDGE

    PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: PROF. WILLEM VERWEY, SECONDARY SUPERVISOR: DR. RUSSELL CHAN

    Requirement: 1 x Dutch-speaking Masters student and interested in potentially working with elder adults.

    Start in October 2021

    It is argued that motor learning and sequence representations are centrally stored, indicating that transfer is possible from one task to another. In reality, transfer is not as clear and there are limitations when using different effectors (i.e. different body parts) (Barnhoorn et al., 2016). The goal of the project is to understand if the sequence respresentations are centrally stored but that effectors affect performance by using a common sequence. You will gain experience collecting data from a step-dance version the Discrete Sequence Production task (Verwey, 1999) and comparing outcomes such as response times and concetanation against a hand-based version.  These outcomes will be interpreted based on the Cognitive framework for Sequential Motor Behaviour (Verwey et al., 2015). You may learn the use of the fNIRs neuroimaging technologies but you will not be required to interpret these outcomes.

    References:

    Barnhoorn, J. S., Dohring, F. R., Van Asseldonk, E. H., & Verwey, W. B. (2016). Similar Representations of Sequence Knowledge in Young and Older Adults: A Study of Effector Independent Transfer. Front Psychol, 7, 1125. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01125        

    Verwey, W. B. (1999). Evidence for a multistage model of practice in a sequential movement task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25(6), 1693-1708. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-1523.25.6.1693

    Verwey, W. B., Shea, C. H., & Wright, D. L. (2015, Feb). A cognitive framework for explaining serial processing and sequence execution strategies. Psychon Bull Rev, 22(1), 54-77. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-014-0773-4

  • MCP2 - TMS AT IFADO, DORTMUND

    SUPERVISOR: PROF. WILLEM VERWEY

    35EC

    In collaboration with the group of prof. Michael Nitsche at Ifado (http://www.ifado.de/neurowissenschaft/neuromodulation/), a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation) study will be carried out while participants are executing a motor sequencing task. Earlier studies suggest that the supplementary motor area (SMA) is heavily involved in learning and producing motor sequences. We previously tested this in two studies with TMS at the preSMA and the SMAproper (Ruitenberg et al., 2014, Verwey et al., 2002), and found different effects, suggesting different functional roles for preSMA and SMAproper. However, these studies were somewhat different and carried out in different laboratories. In this master assignment, we intend to re-examine the different roles of the preSMA and the SMAproper in a single study. The experiment will be carried out at the Ifado in Dortmund, Germany, and will be supervised by researchers at the Ifado.

    References:

    Ruitenberg, M. F. L., Verwey, W. B., Schutter, D. J. L. G., & Abrahamse, E. L. (2014). Cognitive and neural foundations of discrete sequence skill: A TMS study. Neuropsychologia, 56, 229-238.

    Verwey, W. B., Lammens, R., & van Honk, J. (2002). On the role of the SMA in the discrete sequence production task: a TMS study. Neuropsychologia, 40(8), 1268-1276.

  • MCP3 - INVESTIGATING THE ROLE OF THE INFERIOR FRONTAL GYRUS ON INHIBITION IN TASK SWITCHING – A TDCS STUDY

    SUPERVISORS: PROF. WILLEM VERWEY (UT), DR. JULIANE SCHEIL (IFADO, DORTMUND), DR. THOMAS KLEINSORGE (IFADO)

    The ability to deal with a permanently changing environment is central for human flexible behavior control, and the task switching paradigm is a useful tool for measuring this flexible control of behavior. When switching among different tasks, we are confronted with the need to activate relevant information on the one hand and at the same time prevent interference from currently irrelevant information. While the former may be achieved by activating some kind of task-set, the latter may be accomplished by inhibitory processes (cf. Kiesel et al., 2010). In task switching, inhibition can be assessed by using the so-called n – 2 repetition costs (Mayr & Keele, 2000), which are explained by the occurrence of task inhibition after each switch trial that persists for some time and, therefore, has to be overcome when the current task was inhibited in trial n – 2.

    Although the occurrence of n – 2 repetition costs has been shown under different conditions and with a variety of different experimental settings (cf. Koch et al., 2010, for a review), characteristics of the underlying inhibitory process still remain unknown. This also holds for the question which brain areas are involved in inhibition during task switching. An area possibly related to n – 2 repetition costs is the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG, cf. Aron, 2007; Banich & Depue, 2015, for reviews).

    This project aims at elucidating the role of the IFG for inhibition in task switching by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive technique to enhance or decrease activity in the brain. For this purpose, participants perform a task switching experiment under tDCS. For each participant, three sessions are planned, one with anodal stimulation, one with cathodal stimulation, and a sham condition. Behavioral data (n – 2 repetition costs in reaction times and error rates) will then be analyzed as a function of tDCS condition. The experiment will be conducted at IfADo in Dortmund. Students are welcome to contact the following email for more details: scheil@ifado.de.

    References:

    Aron, A. R. (2007). The neural basis of inhibition in cognitive control. The Neuroscientist, 13(3), 214–228.

    Banich, M. T. & Depue, B. E. (2015). Recent advances in understanding neural systems that support inhibitory control. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 1, 17–22.

    Kiesel, A., Steinhauser, M., Wendt, M., Falkenstein, M., Jost, K., Philipp, A.M. & Koch, I. (2010). Control and interference in task switching – a review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(5), 849–874.

    Koch, I., Gade, M., Schuch, S., & Philipp, A. M. (2010). The role of inhibition in task switching: A review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 1–14.

    Mayr, U. & Keele, S. W. (2000). Changing internal constraints on action: The role of backward inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129(1), 4–26.

    Correspondence

    Dr. Juliane Scheil
    Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors
    Ardeystraße 67
    D-44139 Dortmund
    Germany
    Tel. ++49 (0)231 1084-313
    Fax ++49 (0)231 1084-340
    e-mail: scheil@ifado.de

  • MCP4 - OPTIMIZING THE EFFECTS OF TDCS OVER THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX IN WORKING MEMORY

    SUPERVISORS:  PROF. WILLEM VERWEY (UT), MOHSEN SAMANI (IFADO, DORTMUND)

    Cognitive deficits, primarily in working memory (WM) impairment, are core features of a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, contributing substantially to burden of disease and remaining largely refractory to conventional drug-based therapies [1]. A number of lines of evidence attribute cognitive deficits to dysregulation or disruption of neuroplasticity, which refers to structural and functional alteration of the strength of synaptic connections in response to environmental or internal demands, as a main contributor to the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric-oriented cognitive disorders [2]. The targeted modulation of plasticity might therefore be suited to alleviate the symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

    To address this concern, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), as a safe, relatively low-cost, and non-invasive tool, has revealed its potential to modulate both psychological and physiological processes, via delivering weak direct electrical currents through the scalp with two or more electrodes placed on the head. Anodal tDCS, which refers to surface inward current over the target area, has been shown to mitigate symptoms and improve memory function of neuropsychiatric populations [3], while enhancing cognitive functions, especially WM, in healthy individuals, with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) as target region. Despite its beneficial effects reported in previous studies, there have been challenges regarding efficacy of the technique, which potentially resulted from the heterogeneity of stimulation parameters between studies, due to the fact that knowledge about the optimal tDCS protocol with regard to cognitive enhancement is scarce. Systematic dose titration studies are required fully elucidate the potentional of this intervention to improve performance. To address this, in the current study, functional effects of anodal prefrontal tDCS will be investigated by simultaneous WM task performance with concurrent neurophysiological measures via EEG. Twenty-four healthy young participants will take part in four randomized tDCS sessions (1, 2, 3mA, and sham, with one week interval between each session to avoid carry over effects). The expected duration of the project (including data acquisition, analysis, and writing up) is about 6 months full time. The experiment will be conducted at IfADo in Dortmund. Students are welcome to contact the following email for more details: mosayebi@ifado.de

    References:

    [1]  Minzenberg MJ, Carter CS. Developing treatments for impaired cognition in schizophrenia.
          Trends in cognitive sciences 2012;16(1):35-42.

    [2]  Fregni F, Pascual-Leone A. Technology insight: noninvasive brain stimulation in neurology-
          perspectives on the therapeutic potential of rTMS and tDCS. Nature clinical practice Neurology
          2007;3(7):383-93.

    [3]  Kuo M-F, Chen P-S, Nitsche MA. The application of tDCS for the treatment of psychiatric
          diseases. International Review of Psychiatry 2017;29(2):146-67.

  • MCP5 - THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX WHILE SOLVING NON-VERBAL SYLLOGISMS

    SUPERVISOR: DR. VAN DER LUBBE

    35EC

    In a recent EEG/ERP study, we observed that the ability to solve nonverbal syllogisms with different configurations of geometrical shapes like circles, squares and triangles, relates to a slow negativity above frontal brain areas. Individuals that were better able to solve these syllogisms showed an increase in this frontal negativity. In some other research, we observed that the ability to solve these syllogisms is strongly related to performance on the Raven test, suggesting that this ability relates to fluid intelligence. In the proposed project, goal is to further explore 1) whether this frontal negativity is sensitive to increased complexity of the presented syllogisms, 2) whether we can replicate the observed individual differences on this frontal negativity, 3) the relation between this frontal negativity and specific oscillatory rhythms, 4) the likely cortical source of this frontal negativity. The planned research will have be carried out by two MA students that will work closely together.

  • MCP6 - MOTOR IMAGERY

    PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: DR. VAN DER LUBBE, SECONDARY SUPERVISOR: PROF. VERWEY

    35 EC

    In a recent publication (Van der Lubbe et al., 2021), we examined whether motor imagery of a sequence of finger movements is possibly more effortful than the execution of this sequence by focusing on the EEG. In line with this idea, an increase in frontal theta power was observed in the motor imagery condition. Goal of the current research project is to provide a conceptual replication with an adapted relatively complex motor task, and to support the EEG findings with subjective assessments of employed effort. 

  • MCP7 - TESTING THE TWO SUCCESSIVE TIME WINDOWS APPROACH – STATISTICAL METHODS

    SUPERVISORS: VAN DER LUBBE & VAN DEN BERG

    35 EC

    In some recent publications (e.g., Van der Lubbe et al., 2019), a specific method was employed to deal with the multiple comparisons problem. This problem is often encountered in EEG studies as measurements are taken from several electrodes and within several time windows after a relevant event. To assess possible relevant differences between conditions or groups of participants, an extension of the Bonferroni approach was applied with the idea that a systematic difference across two successive time windows may correct for the increased possibility of a Type I error. Although this method appeared to work quite well, the validity of this method has not yet been convincingly demonstrated. Several aspects can be explored: simulations, the development of additional control analyses on baseline intervals or permutation approaches, etc. In addition, specific features of EEG signal analyses, such as the use of lowpass filters, might invalidate the approach or at least put boundaries on the width of the chosen time windows. Goal of the project is to identify possible pitfalls of this method and if needed to develop alternative approaches that could be inspired on Bayesian methods.

  • MCP8 - COMMON MOTOR SEQUENCE, DIFFERENT BODY PARTS: WHAT DIFFERENCE ARE THERE IN THE BRAIN?

    PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: DR. CHAN, SECONDARY SUPERVISOR: PROF. VERWEY

    Motor learning and sequence representations are argued to be centrally stored, however, when we use different body parts it can feel like we are learning the sequence all over again. The idea of transfer between different effectors (i.e. body parts) is not as clear (Barnhoorn et al., 2016) and there is limited understanding in their cortical activity patterns.  The goal of this project is to understand if these differences are due to a central problem or due to limitation of effectors. Working closely with the supervisor, you will learn the use of the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging technology to understand cortical representation differences between hands and feet whilst performing a common motor sequence.  Specifically, you will be analysing oxygen activation patterns in the prefrontal cortex and motor cortex and interpreting outcomes based on the Cognitive framework for Sequential Motor Behaviour (Verwey et al., 2015).

    Requirement: 1 x Dutch-speaking Masters student and interested in potentially working with elder adults.

    Start in October 2021

    Readings:

    Barnhoorn, J. S., Dohring, F. R., Van Asseldonk, E. H., & Verwey, W. B. (2016). Similar Representations of Sequence Knowledge in Young and Older Adults: A Study of Effector Independent Transfer. Front Psychol, 7, 1125. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01125        

    Verwey, W. B. (1999). Evidence for a multistage model of practice in a sequential movement task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25(6), 1693-1708. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-1523.25.6.1693

    Verwey, W. B., Shea, C. H., & Wright, D. L. (2015, Feb). A cognitive framework for explaining serial processing and sequence execution strategies. Psychon Bull Rev, 22(1), 54-77. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-014-0773-4

  • MCP8 - The neurobiology of motor learning expertise between elder adults and younger adults

    PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: DR. CHAN / DR. VAN DER LUBBE, SECONDARY SUPERVISOR: DR. CHAN / DR. VAN DER LUBBE

    The study of active and healthy aging is a primary focus for social and neuroscientific communities.  Motor learning is an important aspect of maintaining functional capacity and autonomy in the society.  This project aims to assess electrophysiological neuronal activity (via EEG) differences in the brain between elder and younger adults.  You will have the opportunity to learn EEG techniques and apply them to participants who are practicing two fixed 6-element motor learning sequences till automaticity.  As a Masters student you will have an opportunity to use R as a statistical programming language to perform mixed-effects models analysis in both EEG and behavioural data in the first instance.  Further and working closely with the supervisor, you may learn to apply a multimodal computational methods like neural network models to combine both EEG and behavioural data, aimed to further differentiate the cortical representation between experts and poorer motor sequence learners between younger and elder adults.

    Requirement: 2 x Dutch-speaking Masters student and interested in potentially working with elder adults.

    Start in October 2021

    Readings:

    Grady, C. (2012). The cognitive neuroscience of ageing. Nat Rev Neurosci, 13(7), 491-505. doi:10.1038/nrn3256

    Popal, H., Wang, Y., & Olson, I. R. (2019). A Guide to Representational Similarity Analysis for Social Neuroscience. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 14(11), 1243-1253. doi:10.1093/scan/nsz099

    Verwey, W. B., Shea, C. H., & Wright, D. L. (2015). A cognitive framework for explaining serial processing and sequence execution strategies. Psychon Bull Rev, 22(1), 54-77. doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0773-4