- Congrats to doctoral candidate Smriti Mehta!
- Importance of investing in adolescent education
- Lab paper makes Nature Human Behaviour’s 2021 Top 25 Social Sciences and Human Behaviour Articles
- Neural correlates of behavioral and academic resilience in children
- Sulcal depth and its impact on cognitive skills
- Going Beyond Traditional Ideas of Brain Activity in Children
- Investigating hidden strengths among children with dyslexia
- New Grant: The role of prefrontal sulcal morphology and brain network architecture in cognitive development
- New NSF Grant: Collaborative Research: How does the brain represent abstract concepts?
- Lab Publication Featured in Association for Psychological Science
On April 12-14, 2022, Professor Caroline Hoxby from Stanford came to UC Berkeley to deliver the prestigious Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Prof. Hoxby argued that early adolescence is a time when honing advanced cognitive skills is critical for future academic attainment and career opportunities. Silvia Bunge served as one of the three invited discussants, along with an economist from the University of Chicago (Prof. Erik Hurst) and a political scientist from Princeton (Prof. Jan-Werner Müller). The lectures and commentaries will be published as a book by Oxford University Press.
A paper led by graduate student Monica Ellwood-Lowe, in collaboration with collaborator Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, received the 2021 Top 25 Social Sciences and Human Behaviour Articles distinction from Nature Human Behaviour.
The paper found that a pattern of brain function that is adaptive for children above poverty–and well-replicated in the literature–does not seem to be adaptive for children living in poverty, who have been less represented in our studies. This suggests that children in poverty who perform well on cognitive tests might be relying on different day-to-day thought-patterns than their higher-income peers who perform well, perhaps to deal with different structural barriers to success.
You can read the paper here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-27336-y
Ph.D. Student, Monica Ellwood-Lowe, and Research Assistant, Carolyn Irving, recently published a paper entitled “Exploring neural correlates of behavioral and academic resilience among children in poverty.” Monica and Carolyn examined how LFPN-DMN between network coupling is related to children’s school grades and attention problems over ages 9-13. They found that for children living above the poverty line, higher LFPN-DMN connectivity was associated with worse grades and attentional problems, while children living below the poverty line showed the opposite relationship.
Ph.D. Student Willa Voorhies recently published a preprint on the tertiary sulcal development in children and their impact on individual differences in reasoning skills. Willa investigated how the depth of tertiary sulci in the Lateral Prefrontal cortex impacts the efficiency of local neural signals, finding that it improves these signals which underly cognitive skills. The depth of tertiary sulci is able to predict individual differences in reasoning skills beyond predictions from age.
Ph.D. student Monica Ellwood-Lowe recently published a preprint entitled “What is an adaptive pattern of brain activity for a child? It depends on their environment.” This new research found that while children living above the federal poverty line tend to have better cognitive performance when having weaker connectivity between lateral frontoparietal and default mode networks, children who live in poverty show a trend in the opposite direction. Monica gave a presentation on this research at Flux in September and hopes this research will help inform further research on what it means to have optimal brain activity in many realms beyond the traditional classroom.
Professor Silvia Bunge recently received a grant in collaboration with Christa Watson and Marilu Gorno Tempini of UCSF’s Schwab Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center. Their work will investigate how the different cognitive patterns in children with dyslexia can be adaptive and beneficial despite their difficulty with written language. This research will hopefully be able to serve as a way to eliminate stigma surrounding dyslexia and reframe the difficulties and skill sets among children with dyslexia.
New Grant: The role of prefrontal sulcal morphology and brain network architecture in cognitive development
Kevin Weiner, primary investigator at the Cognitive Neuroanatomy Lab, and Silvia Bunge were recently awarded a grant from the National Institute on Child Development. As primary investigators, Kevin Weiner and Silvia Bunge are researching how the emergence of sulci on the cortex influences the maturation of brain function and behavior. Their research will focus on the sulci in the prefrontal cortex and utilize behavioral and brain imaging techniques to further explain their role in higher cognitive functions.
We were recently awarded a NSF grant for collaborative research with David Kraemer at Dartmouth and Keith Holyoak and Hongjing Lu at UCLA. This grant will fund our investigation of how the brain represents abstract concepts. More specifically, we are interested in the representation of an abstract idea independently from the concrete topics that make up the content of that idea, if people represent concepts in an abstract manner spontaneously, and what neural markers reliably predict differences in reasoning capacity between individuals. The hope for this research is that it can help identify how abstract thought and reasoning is represented, as well as inform how artificial intelligence systems can have more efficient learning mechanisms.