A society’s cultural practices shape the structure of its social networks

Social groups that prefer individuals who possess a wide range of skills are less well-connected than those that favor proficiency in most limited skillsets, according to a new study by Penn biologists.


A wearable new technology moves brain monitoring from the lab to the real world

The portable EEG created by PIK Professor Michael Platt and postdoc Arjun Ramakrishnan has potential applications from health care to sports performance. The wearable EEG akin to a Fitbit for the brain has a set of silicon and silver nanowire sensors embedded into a head covering. The new technology led to the formation of a company called Cogwear, LLC. 



For juniors who want to gain experience in academic research, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) provides a summer’s worth of research funding to give them a running start toward their professional careers. Participant Donissa Edmonds (right) of the College of Arts and Sciences, a senior from Gambier, Ohio, is conducting research in the lab of Rebecca Waller (not pictured) of the School of Arts and Sciences this summer.

Cowbirds on camera

A high-tech aviary at the Pennovation Works campus is the centerpiece of a project that has brought together researchers in biology, physics, and computer science to break new ground in neuroscience and social-network analysis. Led by Marc Schmidt and Vijay Balasubramanian of the School of Arts and Sciences and Kostas Daniilidis of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the work may shed light on the reproductive behaviors of birds while laying the groundwork for future neuroengineering feats. Doctoral student Ammon Perkes and postdoc Marc Badger are also working on the project. (Video)


Living language
On a trip to Siena and Rome, students in the Penn Global Seminar taught by Jami Fisher (fifth from left, front) of the School of Arts and Sciences learned from and experienced Italian deaf culture. The aim was to broaden their understanding of the diversity and variety of deaf communities around the world.


Giving, not receiving

Advice-giving actually benefits the person sharing the guidance, according to research from Wharton postdoc Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Katherine Milkman of the Wharton School, and Angela Duckworth of the School of Arts and Sciences. In a study of 2,000 high schoolers supported by the Behavior Change for Good Initiative, students who gave motivational advice to younger pupils earned higher grades at the end of the academic quarter.

Complex networks

Danielle Bassett and postdoc Max Bertolero of the School of Engineering and Applied Science co-authored a Scientific American article about network neuroscience, which allows us to see the origins of mental activity in the brain. One day, they write, “a neuroscientist who knew all the principles of brain function and everything about someone’s brain could predict that person’s mental conditions—the future, as well as the past, would be present inside the person’s mind.”

When a fix for one vision problem causes another
Aging diminishes the ability of the eyes to focus up close. New Penn research reports that monovision, a common prescription lens correction to mitigate this issue, can cause dramatic misperceptions of depth and 3D direction for objects in motion.


Beyond the Brain: MindCORE’s unparalleled foray into the human mind
Brain research has advanced tremendously in recent years, but deciphering the complex relationship between brain activity and human behavior remains a compelling scientific challenge. Penn, with its history of excellence in cognitive science and neuroscience, is taking on that challenge with MindCORE.


One hour, one painting: A Barnes visit reveals clues about how the brain processes visual cues
The exercise is one part of a two-week mindCORE summer workshop aimed at underrepresented undergrads across the country. This year’s program focused on language science and technology, and minds in the world.


Understanding smell
Using varying combinations of banana and pine scents, PIK Professor Jay Gottfried discovered that three key brain regions help humans navigate from one odor to the next. The work points to the existence of a grid-like hexagonal architecture in the olfactory regions of the brain, similar to mapping configurations previously found to support spatial navigation in animals.


Observing the invisible
Recapped in Omnia, Bhuvnesh Jain (left) and Michael Weisberg of the School of Arts and Sciences engaged in an interdisciplinary discussion about the search for dark matter at a Knowledge by the Slice lunchtime lecture. Jain spoke about the significance of the first photograph of a black hole, and Weisberg debuted a rough cut of his new documentary on the subject.


Beyond the disease
A new psychology course taught by PIK Professor Jay Gottfried has students lead discussions on cognitive neuroscience topics and then brings them face to face with people who have relevant neurologic conditions. “Reading a textbook, you don’t get at certain aspects of a disease,” says junior Kaila Helm (seated at right) of Newburgh, New York. “Here, because you’re meeting the patients, it’s memorable.”


Pokémon insights
A new study from doctoral student Michael Barnett of the School of Arts and Sciences found that images of Pikachu and other characters from the original Pokémon video games activate a particular and unique region in the visual cortex. The results, published in Nature Human Behaviour, shed light on the brain’s organizational structure.


Cognitive enhancement
A new study from the Perelman School of Medicine found that the general public largely views the use of cognitive enhancers, such as Adderall, as an acceptable practice when used by adults in the workplace. “We have become a culture constantly focused on progress and achievement, which has caused many to turn to cognitive enhancers to keep up and get ahead,” says Anjan Chatterjee.


Transforming Behavior
A new study from the Annenberg School for Communication, authored by Emily Falk and postdoc Yoona Kang, has found that people with a strong sense of life purpose have an easier time accepting health advice than those without. Those in the latter group appear to have more activity in parts of the brain associated with difficult decisions, making them more prone to conflicted feelings.


Exploring learning
Why do some people naturally excel at learning instruments, languages, or technology while others take longer to acquire new knowledge? A study led by Danielle Bassett of the School of Engineering and Applied Science looks at how brain-activation patterns might affect how long it takes for new information to really stick.


Shuteye benefits
Children who nap 30 to 60 minutes midday at least three times a week are happier, have more self-control and grit, and showcase fewer behavioral problems, according to new research from the School of Nursing’s Jianghong Liu, who was lead author; PIK Professor Adrian Raine; and the Perelman School of Medicine’s Rui Feng. These children also have higher IQs and excel academically.


From Play-Doh to Slinkies, an engaging introduction to the basics of the brain

The Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair, sponsored by Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB), brought West Philadelphia fourth graders and Penn neuroscience students together for a morning of hands-on fun.


Shooting for the Moon: Linguistics students solving big problems

Kathryn Schuler, Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Department and MindCORE Affiliate, asked her students to think big. Throughout the semester, they worked on passion projects, following a Google X model to allow for unconstrained ideas to solve grand problems


MindCORE Undergraduate Fellow presents at 2019 International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting

Mariya Bershad, a Penn senior and participant in our 2018 Summer Fellowship program, presented her poster “Early detection of AD-related Cognitive Change with the Mobile Cognitive App Performance Program (mCAPP)” at the 2019 INS Annual Meeting. This pilot study investigated the feasibility and preliminary psychometric properties of a mobile app-based memory task (mCAPP) that targets memory changes associated with preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease.



Philly accent: There’s a lot youse don’t know about it. Just ask these experts.

Linguists say young women tend to be at the forefront of language changes–in Philadelphia and across the globe. “As Paris is to fashion, the thinking goes, so are young women to linguistic innovation.” – Meredith Tamminga, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, UPenn

Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/15/19

Procrastinating on Climate Change

Joseph Kable, Baird Term Professor of Psychology and MindCORE Associate Director for Research, discusses why humans can’t seem to make the commitment to slow climate change.

Omnia, 1/23/19

A Summer Studying the Mind and Brain

MindCORE’s Undergraduate Summer Fellowship Program in Interdisciplinary Mind and Brain Studies provides Penn undergraduates with the opportunity to work full-time with a Penn faculty researcher for ten weeks, and to present their findings at the end of the Program.

Omnia, 12/03/18





Social scientists trade academic silos for shared workspace

Researchers at the new Social and Behavioral Sciences Initiative (SBSI), sponsored by MindCORE, have access to two state-of-the-art labs, grants, and a collaborative environment aimed at creating a vibrant research community.

Penn Today, 11/15/18





Widening the Lens on Language Study

MindCORE faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences use language to unravel mysteries of culture, cognition, and communication.

Omnia, 10/10/18





What happens to the brain after a traumatic injury?

Two undergraduates interning with Penn Medicine’s Ramon Diaz-Arrastia spent the summer looking for biomarkers in the blood of TBI patients, and studying whether the generic form of Viagra might help promote recovery after such an injury.

Penn Today, 9/28/18



Sharing the science behind what we do, what we say, and how we learn

During a two-week mindCORE summer workshop for undergraduates across the country, Penn faculty from eight departments and five schools presented their research on a range of on mind- and brain-focused topics.

Penn Today, 6/15/18




New Interdisciplinary Center to Promote the Study of Human Intelligence and Behavior

MindCORE launched in January 2018.

Almanac, 12/12/17



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