Here at the NeuroImaging Laboratory of Cognitive, Affective and Motoric Processes at University of Louisville we use a cognitive neuroscience approach to better understand how humans modify their behavior. Volitionally modifying behavior is initiated by cognitive control, in which multi-level inhibition (e.g., behavioral, cognitive, neural) plays a role. These processes can be viewed as, the modulation of behavior by influence of prefrontal cortical (PFC) regions interacting on posterior cortical and sub-cortical regions. Using neuroimaging, we strive to understand how humans institute control over a broad array of psychological domains. Furthermore, illustrating the organization of the neural mechanisms of control and whether they exist in a discrete or general fashion over these domains is a main focus of our research. Specific examples include:
modulating the consciousness or awareness of autobiographical/episodic memories,
modulating an emotional feeling to select a more appropriate response,
controlling motor behavior for selection of appropriate approach and withdrawal behavior
understanding and comparing different components of executive and emotional control to illustrate cognitive-emotion interaction.
We also strive to understand how functional aspects of the brain, seemingly unlimited thoughts (cognition), arise from finite anatomical circuitry. To understand the relationship between these aspects of the mind and brain, we employ several structural techniques examining characteristics of white matter tracts and grey matter morphometry. The latter of which can be examined through individual differences in volume, surface area and gyrification complexity. By understanding how these aspects relate to functional activity and ultimately behavior, enables a more global cognitive neuroscience perspective.
We use a human neuroimaging methodological approach (in addition to neuroendocrinology, neuroimmunology and genetics through our collaborations) to examine the underlying complex dynamic neural circuitries that enable these kinds of uniquely human traits. That being said, these “human” traits are usually evolutionarily adapted from existing neural circuitry enabling the comparison to animal work and comparative anatomy.