Learning & Re-learning

How does our ability to adapt to changes in the environment ultimately lead us to acquire new knowledge about the environment and optimize our behavior? How can adaptation to external cues additionally support re-learning in cases of cognitive declines in healthy aging or neurological dysfunction? Do we learn better if someone else is guiding us, or are we equally able to learn by ourselves? Using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques (EEG, fMRI), we investigate the link between adaptation to environmental dynamics and the learning and re-learning of those dynamics, as well as the factors that optimize adaptation and hence learning. In our research, we approach these questions from both an individual as well as from an inter-individual point of view.

Researchers:

Rachel Brown, Benjamin Schultz, and Laura Verga

Project I: Sensorimotor and statistical learning in healthy aging
This project investigates how the ability to learn novel patterns changes in healthy aging, how learning declines may be enhanced, and the role of subcortical-cortical neural network function in enhancing learning. Specifically, we examine how the link between sound and action in combination with pattern structures may be exploited to enhance adaptation to, and hence learning of, external stimulus patterns, particularly for healthy elderly individuals. We aim to understand how the brain adapts and learns from the environment, and how learning strategies can enhance adaptation to support learning and re-learning.

Project II: Motor and sensorimotor rehabilitation in Parkinson’s disease
This project investigates how the link between sound and action can be exploited to improve motor rehabilitation in persons with motor disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, basal ganglia lesions). Specifically, we examine how musical sounds may prime the motor system, strengthen motor fluency, and the hasten initiation of movements. Our goal is to understand the dynamic relationship between sound and movement and to use music to aid the re-learning of actions. Ultimately, we will produce a sound-based therapy that can be deployed from any smart phone.

Project III: Timing and synchronization in social learning
This project investigates how our ability to learn may differ in social as compared to non-social settings, and which brain networks support these different learning contexts. Within this framework, we specifically focus on temporal synchronization between learning partners. Our aim is to explore how the acquisition of new information is influenced by temporal cooperation behavior, by the individual characteristics of the learner, and by the inter-individual dynamics emerging in dyadic settings..