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Seniors Visit Georgetown's Neuroimaging Lab

Recently, seniors in Dr. Nancy Cowdin’s Neuroscience class had a chance to see the sophisticated technology behind modern neuroimaging; learn about each tool’s limitations and strengths; discuss the strategy governing when to use each; and explore how to construct a neuroimaging test with Dr. John VanMeter. Dr. VanMeter was Dr. Cowdin’s thesis advisor at Georgetown and is the Medical Center Director of the school’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging.

“Having the opportunity to see research being conducted first-hand at Georgetown fueled the students’ enthusiasm for our current research project, using EEG neuroimaging techniques to investigate differences in brain activation patterns while processing electronic versus print media,” noted Dr. Cowdin.

Dr. VanMeter’s research background includes working on the first study of the neurobiological basis of dyslexia and exploration of the neurobiological basis of autism. He is currently applying those same research techniques to “identify...features of [the brain’s] reward processing centers that predict alcohol initiation and act as risk factors in escalation of alcohol use in…adolescents.” During the visit, students were able to review the tests he uses in his research and discuss their theory behind their design.

Of the trip, Claire Sague ‘19 said, “It was really interesting to find out how strong a magnet in an fMRI can be. We learned that an fMRI is 3 teslas strong, and just one tesla is strong enough to lift a car and move it around. It was fantastic to see all the ways that they can do testing in an fMRI, such as a version of the stroop test. It was also really neat looking at all of the electrodes on the EEG and how that form of brain testing works. It was an overall great experience, and I loved getting to see what a career in neuroscience and research looks like.”

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