Skip to main content


Steven Charles

Phone: 801-422-7369
Room: 350J EB

Emphasis: Human motor control of the upper limb in health and in disorders such as tremors

Pre-requisites: No strict pre-requisites, but research assistants usually need to learn how to program in Matlab (similar to C/C++) if they don’t already know; also, MeEn 552 is helpful (counts as a Neuroscience elective)

Derin Cobia

Phone: 801-422-9497
Room: 1036 KMBL

Emphasis: Neuroscience

Pre-requisites: NEURO 205

Jeffrey Edwards

Approved lab for Biophysics majors. Other majors welcome as well.

Phone: (801) 422-8080
Room: 3046 LSB

Emphasis: Learning and Memory mechanisms. Addiction/reward pathways. Synaptic Plasticity.

Pre-requisites: None required (better to start early), but Chem 105, Cell 305/363, or Neuro 205 are helpful.

Shawn Gale

Phone: 801-422-9757
Room: 1126 KMBL

Emphasis: Neurocognitive and Neuropsychiatric Outcome in Infectious Disease

Pre-requisites: None

Dawson Hedges

In his cognitive epidemiology research Dr. Hedges investigates factors that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric outcomes with a particular focus on -the effects of chronic infection and inflammation.

J. Dee Higley

Dr. Higley's research is focused on individual differences in developmental outcomes and psychopathology and focuses on the importance of parental and other environmental influences and genetic influences on the developing brain and its behavioral correlates. His research assesses the role of these factors on addiction, adding new perspectives on how genetic and environmental influences interact to produce behavioral outcomes. Research from his laboratory shows that traits such as impulse control, aggressiveness, and sociality competence are mediated by CNS serotonin functioning and that psychopathological behaviors such as severe impulsivity and alcohol abuse are found in subjects with impaired central serotonin activity. A second line of re-search studies the effect of gene X environment interactions. This re-search shows that psychopathological outcomes are a result of early parental treatment (or the lack thereof) which is modulated by genetic background.

Julianne Holt-Lunstad

Dr. Holt-Lunstad's research examines the association between our social relationships and physical health and longevity, the pathways (e.g., cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, genetic, metabolic, immune, and neural) by which this association occurs, potential moderating factors, and how relationships may be applied in interventions aimed at improving health and reducing risk. Her work is interdisciplinary and takes a multilevel approach utilizing diverse methods (self-report, biological, and behavioral data) and concepts.

Ramona O. Hopkins

My research focuses on brain-behavior relationships. One area of research examines the effect of critical illness on cognitive and psychological function (i.e., anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder) and the relationship between cognitive function and brain imaging. Another area of research assesses whether interventions such as physical or cognitive rehabilitation can improve cognitive function following critical illness. A third area of research focuses on memory and how memory is affected following brain injury.

Daniel Kay

Dr. Kay is interested in understanding the mechanisms and functions of sleep. He investigates sleep disturbances in relation to transdiagnostic features of psychiatric disorders across units of analysis, from genes and circuits to self-report and behavior. His sleep research laboratory is currently conducting two major projects that will help answer how sleep can be used to prevent and treat psychiatric disorders such as depression.

Brock Kirwan

Dr. Kirwan is interested in how the brain forms and retains long-term declarative memories and how we use those memories to guide future actions. He uses functional MRI (fMRI), event-related potentials, and behavioral testing techniques in his research. More information about the Kirwan lab can be found at

If you are interested in becoming a research assistant in the lab, you can fill out this form.

Michael Larson

Dr. Larson’s research utilizes a convergence of information from neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience methodologies to examine the mechanisms of cognitive control in healthy individuals and cognitive dysfunction following traumatic brain injury (TBI). He uses event related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show brain-based changes in how people monitor and manage their environment following head injury. He also studies how exercise influences cognitive functioning, the role of inhibitory control in food and diet behaviors, and the role of psychopathology (e.g., obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] and depression) in influencing cognitive control processes and concomitant brain activity.

Steven Luke

The major focus of my research is reading, which is a complex activity that involves many different processes, most notably language and vision. I also study other aspects of language, such as language development and word and sentence comprehension, as well as other visual tasks, such as scene perception and visual search. Many different groups participate in my studies, including children and adolescents, second language learners, and individuals from various clinical populations. In my research I primarily use eye-tracking technology, although I also use MRI and EEG to study how the brain understands and integrates visual and language information during reading and other tasks.

Rebecca Lundwall

Our research focuses on tracking developmental changes in cognitive abilities, such as attention, and investigating how these changes impact behavior, including academic success, the development of social problem-solving, and other functional skills. We have conducted studies of genetic influences on reflexive attention (attention to suddenly appearing stimuli), but are also interested in developmental changes with autism and following a concussion. We are hopeful that our research will eventually lead to more effective interventions that prevent or minimize developmental problems with cognition.

David McPherson

Dr. McPherson's research is in the area of electrophysiology of language, brain function, and auditory development. His lab is looking at the plasticity of the speech perception and language areas of the brain and their ability to process linguistic in-formation in both a normal and disordered individuals (i.e., speech and language disorders). As part of these studies, Dr. McPherson's lab studies electrophysiological correlates of psychoacoustic function. The laboratory is well equipped to study all areas of sensory function.

Tricia Merkley

Dr. Merkley's research focuses on neuroimage analysis and neuropsychological assessment to investigate brain changes following traumatic brain injury  and how they relate to neurobehavioral functioning during recovery. These studies consider effects of TBI in both pediatric and adult populations, with the recognition that traumatic brain injury can adversely affect future brain development in childhood, in addition to impacting cognitive abilities that were previously developed.

Jared Nielsen

In the Nielsen Brain and Behavior Lab, we are interested in answering questions about the organization of the brain and how neurological and psychiatric illnesses disrupt its organization. To answer these questions, we use a variety of analytical techniques to extract quantitative information from MRI scans.

Chris L. Porter

Research interests include the socialization of behavioral and psychophysiological components of young children's individual characteristics (temperament, emotionality) with particular interest on linkages to individual differences in emerging neural control on children's heart rate variability (i.e., cardiac vagal tone). Addition-al interests include familial and individual factors influencing the formation of early childhood attachment systems and familial and individual factors influencing the transition to parenting and the emergence of parenting belief systems (self-efficacy).

Michael Stark

Dr. Stark's research focuses on early nervous system development in vertebrates. He has been primarily interested in how cells make fate decisions to become a certain cell type in the nervous system. Some of his research has addressed questions related to patterning of the nervous system, neuronal cell determination, and the molecular steps leading to cellular differentiation. More recent projects in the lab have focused on CNS development and neural tube defects in the early embryo that lead to anencephaly and spina bifida.

Scott Steffensen

Research in Dr. Steffensen's lab is devoted to the characterization of neuronal circuits and adaptive neuronal processes involved in drug abuse and natural rewarding behaviors. In animal studies, using electro-physiological, neurochemical, immunohistochemical, microscopic imaging, and behavioral methodologies, we study the role of midbrain GABA neurons in regulating dopamine neurotransmission, which is dysregulated during alcohol dependence. In human studies, using electroencephalographic techniques, we study potential peripheral biomarkers of brain dopamine and treatment strategies to elevate brain dopamine. Dr. Steffensen's goal is to identify what molecular substrates in the midbrain adapt to chronic drug use and to subsequently explore treatment strategies that might reverse drug dependence. This research is currently funded by two NIH grants.

Sterling Sudweeks

Dr. Sudweeks studies neurotransmitter receptors that act as ion channels. These ligand-gated ion channels are involved in synaptic transmission and are implicated in several pathological conditions. They are also the pharmacological targets in many therapeutic situations. These ion channels are expressed in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Specific receptors for the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin (5-HT3), glycine (GlyR), and acetylcholine (nAChRs) are all members of the ligand-gated ion channel superfamily.

Arminda Suli

Dr. Suli's research focuses in understanding the development and formation of neurocircuits at the genetic and molecular level. There are two main projects in the lab: 1. Understanding the formation of synapses in mechanosensory hair cells, the specialized sensory cells that mediate hearing and balance in mammals and are additionally used in fish and amphibians as part of the lateral line sensory system to detect prey and predators. 2. Identification and development of neurons in the midbrain that receive and integrate inputs from multiple sensory systems, such visual, auditory and somatosensory, and which coordinate appropriate motor response to external stimuli.

Dixon Woodbury

Dr. Woodbury's research is in molecular neuroscience and focuses on membrane biophysics, particularly vesicle/membrane fusion and its regulation by SNARE proteins. SNARE proteins form the molecular motor that drives exocytosis and are the target of tetanus and botulinum toxin. Additional research looks at effects of alcohols and cholesterol on exocytosis. More information about the Woodbury lab can be found at woodburylab.

Jordan Yorgason

Jordan Yorgason and colleagues are interested in the neurobiology of motivation for natural and drug rewards. The laboratory uses electrophysiology, electrochemistry, functional microscopy and behavioral techniques to study the effects of opiates on anxiety related brain circuitry. We are also interested in how psychostimulants affect midbrain dopamine circuitry, and how dopamine underlies learned associations for drug-seeking behavior. We are continually developing new techniques to study the pathology of addiction.