Edward Ester, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, which provides a grant of $553,436. Ester is using this award to further his research of the neural mechanisms that allow us to rapidly perceive and make sense of the world around us.
Specifically, Ester is working on advancing knowledge of the interplay between neural circuits supporting working memory and motor control. Ester states, “We are trying to determine how abstract mental representations are translated into concrete, observable behaviors. Researchers know an extensive deal about how the brain represents information, and how changes in context or relevance influence those mental representations. However, researchers know less about how these highly abstracted representations are mapped onto specific actions.” The award will allow for a series of human neuroimaging (fMRI) and EEG studies to examine interactions between cortical circuits that mediate active memory and motor planning.
Ester goes on to say, “Our hypothesis is that these circuits are tightly integrated and in some cases overlapping, so that the same circuitry responsible for implementing responses (e.g., motor cortex) are the same areas involved in representing information used to guide that behavior.”
Additionally, the research includes integrated and ambitious education and outreach plan designed to increase the recruitment of undergraduate students in basic research activities - particularly members of underrepresented groups and first-generation college students. This project will develop a series of workshops where students will be introduced to basic research techniques in human neurosciences, including opportunities for students to collect and analyze their own data.