Summer Science Research at Bryn Mawr

'2007' Archive

The Use of Cognitive Training for Rehabilitation

Posted May 11, 2010

Today, Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be the leading cause of dementia in the elderly population. Currently, it is estimated that 4.5 million people in the United States have the disease and this number is predicted to rise to 14.3 million by mid-century. Alzheimer’s patients show various cognitive impairments in areas such as language, recognition and decision-making. Consequently, they experience difficulty with even simple daily tasks. As the population continues to age at an increasingly rapid rate, it is essential that we focus on methods to delay the progression of decline in these cognitive abilities.

For my research, I will be testing the effects of a training program called PSS CogReHab on the decline in cognitive abilities of elderly people who have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. PSS CogReHab is a computer program with eight software packages that include sixty-four activities that have been designed to focus on skills such as motor skills, visual/spatial skills, problem solving, memory and attention. In our lab, we will be working through this training program with patients who show mild Alzheimer’s symptoms, over the course of 24 one hour sessions. The sessions are considerably interactive and most of the tasks include user modifiable parameters which allow us to tailor the program so that participants would not be overwhelmed by the demands of the activities, but will still feel challenged. In addition, we will be testing their memory and attention before and after training, which will allow us to examine the decline of their abilities and compare it to the untrained population.

Physiological Consequences of Emotional Suppression

Posted May 11, 2010

People regulate their emotions everyday. They hide their disappointment when they are turned down for a promotion and their disgust at a loved one’s recent attempt at the culinary arts. One form of emotion regulation is expressive suppression in which an individual acts in such a way that a person looking at them wouldn’t know what they were actually feeling. Expressive suppression is believed to have important health consequences due to increased physiological arousal. The short-term link between suppression and physiological arousal has been studied experimentally in previous research using films and other media to elicit emotions.

Meta-analysis is the statistical analysis of the results of previous studies. I will be performing a meta-analysis on previous experimental research on suppression in order to examine the relationship between expressive suppression and its immediate physiological consequences as well as how this relationship is modified by a number of other variables, such as the emotion being suppressed, the use of undergraduates versus non-college participants, and the method used to elicit emotion. The results of this meta-analysis will be used to inform the design of a new experimental study of suppression.

Emotionality Biases in Memory

Posted May 11, 2010

Cognitive research has demonstrated that both young adults and older adults have enhanced memory for emotional material, in comparison with neutral material. In these studies, the stimuli that are characterized as “positive” could be the word “happiness,” or an image of parents with their new twin babies. In contrast, “negative” words and images could pertain to topics such as death or destruction. An example of “neutral” material is the word, “chair,” or an image of students listening to a guest lecturer.

Additional research has suggested a positive emotionality bias for the older adults, noting that older adults tend to recall positive emotional material better than negative or neutral material. In contrast, young adults tend to have higher memory performance for negative emotional material, rather than for positive or neutral material. My research will attempt to replicate these results and to investigate the underlying mechanisms behind the emotionality bias and the effects in young and older adults.

Individual Factors Leading to the Support of Terrorism

Posted May 11, 2010

From New York to London and Madrid, large-scale terrorist attacks have caused the Western world to reexamine the relationship it has with both the Islamic countries and with Muslims living in Western countries. While most Muslims condemn terrorist attacks, such as 9/11, 7/7, 3/11, and the frequent terrorist attacks and bombings in Mid-Eastern countries, a few individuals come to support terrorism, some even becoming terrorists themselves. What factors determine whether one becomes a supporter or opponent of terrorism?

For my research, I will be looking at five surveys of Muslims living in the United Kingdom, each taken at different dates between 2004 and 2006.

The Role of Hand Gestures in Memory

Posted May 11, 2010

Hand gestures are unprompted movements of the hands that accompany speech. They fall into various categories: Beats, which add emphasis to accompanying speech, Deictics, which indicate referents, like for example points, and Representationals, which stand for the referent either iconically or metaphorically. Most research on gesture has focused on the specific role that hand gestures of these various types play in communication with others. Recently; however, researchers have argued that hand gestures are important not only for communication, but because they represent and perhaps even facilitate the speaker’s thoughts. This has led to interest in the cognitive functions of gesture. Some of this research has looked at the role of gestures in memory. Can accompanying speech with gesture help an individual to remember better? If so, does it matter what type of gesture is used? And if gesture is restricted, will an individual remember less?

Trapping and Cooling Atoms

Posted May 11, 2010

The purpose of our research is to obtain ultra-cold highly excited Rydberg atoms that are strongly coupled to dipole-dipole interaction. This is applicable in various fields of physics such as quantum computing, solid state modeling, testing quantum mechanical theories and fundamental studies of dipole-dipole interaction.

The type of atoms being used are Potassium and Rubidium atoms. These elements have properties ideal for this experiment. They resemble a hydrogen atom in that they have a positive core and a valence electron. Rydberg atoms are atoms which have a highly excited electron, which is, therefore, at a large distance from the core of the atom. This creates a strong dipole. The fact that the atoms are ultra-cold means that they are moving at a highly reduced speed. The interaction between atoms and the manipulation of their properties thus become much more controllable.

Polarization Characteristics of Some Newly Discovered Pulsars

Posted May 11, 2010

A pulsar (pulsating star) is a rapidly rotating neutron star that radiates beams of electromagnetic radiation as it spins on its axis. These beams are detected on earth as pulses of radiation as they sweep across earth’s view, much like the beacon of a lighthouse. Neutron stars are the end point of evolution of extremely massive stars; they consist primarily of neutrons. The first pulsar was discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish of the University of Cambridge, UK. Since then, over 1500 pulsars have been detected with periods ranging from milliseconds to seconds. Pulsars have been observed in various bands of radiation including gamma rays, x-rays, visible light and radio waves. In this research, we will use data collected at the Arecibo Observatory to study the polarization characteristics of radio waves emitted by some recently discovered pulsars. Pulsar polarization measurements turn out to provide a means of mapping out our Galaxy’s magnetic field. We now know that this field is somewhat circular or spiral in shape and a few micro-gauss strong, but no one knows much more detail about it. Our ultimate goal, therefore, is to gain a deeper understanding about the nature of our galaxy’s magnetic field by conducting more research on pulsar polarization.

Harmonic Analysis Book Project

Posted May 11, 2010

The field of harmonic analysis is the branch of mathematics that studies the representation of signals or functions as the superposition of basic waves. The basic waves are called “harmonics”, hence the name “harmonic analysis.” In the past two centuries, it has become a vast subject with applications in areas as diverse as signal processing, quantum mechanics, and neuroscience.

Harmonic analysis has a long and rich history dating back to eighteenth century studies of the wave equation pioneered by Fourier. The succeeding 150 years saw a blossoming of Fourier analysis into a powerful set of tools, including the Fourier transform, in mathematical physics, engineering, applied partial differential equations, and pure mathematics. Because of its efficient numerical approximations, the Fourier transform forms the foundation for most image and signal processing algorithms. The 1930’s and 1940’s were a relatively quiet time for Fourier analysis, but, beginning in the 1950’s, the focus of Fourier analysis became singular integrals pioneered by Calderón and Zygmund. Singular integrals are mathematical objects that look infinite but when properly interpreted are finite and well behaved.

Exploring Wavelets with Wavelet Explorer

Posted May 11, 2010

In general when we have smooth functions it is appropriate to use sine and cosine functions to analyze these functions (this is a method called the Fourier Series). When functions are not smooth (like those with abrupt changes) it is hard to use cosines and sines to measure these functions and in this case we turn to wavelets. We are able to lengthen or shorten the wavelets that we want in order to analyze these functions. Wavelets are defined to be mathematical functions which are used to divide certain functions into separate frequency components and then they are used to study each component. Applications of wavelets are often used in the analysis of data compression such as fingerprint compression by the FBI and signal analysis such as the analysis of music.

Explaining the Kinematics of the Kootenay Arc: a Paleomagnetic Analysis

Posted May 11, 2010

Many mountain (orogenic) belts are curved like a bow in map view (e.g., the Appalachians, Himalayas, Alps, etc.). These orogenic belts can fall under one of three kinematic (history of deformation and motion) classifications: the belt was initially curved and experienced no rotation (primary arc); the belt was originally linear and experienced rotation (orocline); the belt acquired it’s rotation as it was being formed, or was initially bent and experienced further rotation (progressive arc). To date, the only robust and quantitative method of determining vertical-axis rotations is paleomagnetism (the study of the Earth’s ancient magnetic field as it is recorded in the rock record). When combined with structural and geologic data, paleomagnetic data is an extremely useful tool for constraining the kinematics of a curved orogen. Our study concerns the curvature of the Kootenay Arc in British Columbia, Canada. The Kootenay Arc, situated in the Canadian Rockies, is thought to be one of a number of terranes that have collided with what was once the western margin of North America. Previous papers have described this arc as both an orocline and as a primary arc. There has, however, been no paleomagnetic study of this region. Ferromagnetic minerals present in most rocks align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field, and as a result record the rock’s paleo-latitude as well as the rock’s orientation with respect to the Earth’s spin-axis at the time of magnetization acquisition. If the ChRM (Characteristic Remanant Magnetizion) of a rock is acquired prior to the deformation that generates the orogenic belt, then kinematic classification of the belt should be relatively straight forward. The ChRM of a primary arc would show no rotations, the ChRM of an orocline would show a one-to-one correlation between rotations and map-view curvature, and the ChRM of a progressive arc would show a correlation between structural trend and magnetization that is less than one-to-one (orocline), but greater than zero (primary arc). Professor Arlo Weil, Alexi Ernstoff, and I plan to obtain samples from the Kootenay Arc that can be used for paleomagnetic analysis. The eventual goal of this project is to use paleomagnetism to help explain the kinematics of the Kootenay Arc, and thus broaden our understanding of orogenic evolution in general and the evolution of the Rocky Mountains in specific.

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