Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Research Opportunities in the Canine Cognitive Neuroscience Lab


 From the NBB Department Facebook Page:

"This is a long post but start with "Do you love dogs?" If that answer is YES, read on!

This year the Canine Cognitive Neuroscience Lab plans to continue research using awake, unrestrained fMRI to investigate concepts in domestic dogs. There are two ongoing projects in the lab, both of which would be beneficial for an undergraduate researcher to participate in:

The first project is investigating associative learning rates in the brain based on the presentation of three different modalities of stimuli. This study requires that the dog participate in three different MRI scans, during which an experimenter is required to control the presentation of stimuli to the dogs during fMRI data acquisition. The second study will be examining how dogs process two dimensional and three-dimensional objects, and whether they treat 2D and 3D objects as equivalent stimuli. A researcher is required to control the presentation of 2D and 3D stimuli to the dog during fMRI data acquisition. 

Aside from conducting experiments, an undergraduate researcher would learn how to process and analyze fMRI data, as well as introductory python programing. Undergraduates who enter the lab begin by learning the basics of MRI, how to run scripts on the computer, as well as basic canine anatomy. All members of the lab, graduate and undergraduate, work on drawing masks over the regions of interest of the brain based on the hypotheses of the study. Undergraduate researchers will learn how to integrate computer scripts with basic python to parse timing files created during the presentation of stimuli. After learning to process data, students will analyze the results to generate design matrices with the appropriate contrasts of interest for the current study. 

Undergraduates will learn the skills necessary for the preprocessing, analyses, and completion of a study. However, student researchers will also have the opportunity to design their own study. There are several possibilities for future fMRI studies of canines, as well as an available pool of canine subjects with which to conduct behavioral studies. Additionally, recent contacts at the Atlanta Zoo have offered the opportunity to conduct research with other nonhuman animals investigating cognition and behavior.

Should an undergraduate wish to capitalize on this opportunity, they will have support for the design and implementation of their project. Undergraduates who have participated in research in the past have presented posters about their individual projects at the SIRE program’s research fair at Emory University, and have also had the opportunity to be co-authors on manuscripts submitted for publication.
To find out more about the Laboratory, visit:
To fill out a form letting us know about you and your interest in joining the lab, visit:"