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College of Arts and Sciences

2019 Conference

The Institute for Mind and Brain at the University of South Carolina held a one-day conference on the Executive Function in Mind & Brain, Friday, March 1, 2019. It was the third in a series of regular forums for highlighting current topics in cognitive neuroscience. The conference featured three featured presentations, as well as invited contributions by local researchers and a poster session.

Executive Function in Mind & Brain

Executive functioning refers to cognitive processes involved in managing the mental resources necessary to achieve goals and function adaptively in the environment. These higher order cognitive processes generally require effortful control of attention to direct planning, self-monitoring, inhibition, emotional control, initiation of action and flexible use of working memory. Prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe functioning have proven to be key determinants of effective executive functioning. Executive function follows a developmental time course as it grows in childhood and declines in later life. Given its critical role for self-sufficient human functioning, a better understanding of the determinants and consequences of executive function is essential in the study of mind and brain.

The one-day conference invited students and faculty to consider several fundamental questions. What are the brain bases of executive control? Can executive function be improved with training or by other means?  How does language impact executive function and conversely how does executive function impact language? What are the risk factors for decline in executive control?

Featured Speakers

Sharon L. Thompson-Schill, Ph.D.

Sharon L. Thompson-Schill, Ph.D.

Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of PsychologyDirector, MindCORE Professor and Chair of PsychologyUniversity of Pennsylvania Dr. Thompson-Schill studies the biological bases of human cognitive systems, including perception, memory, language and cognitive control.  Her research has explored the functions of the frontal lobe in the regulation of thought and behavior, especially in relation to language and memory processes. Her research employs a wide array of behavioral and neuroscientific methods with both typical and atypical populations, including fMRI, lesion-deficit mapping of neurological patients, TMS, genotypic analysis for typical variation, and eyetracking.

Mark D'Esposito, MD

Mark D'Esposito, MD

Professor of Neuroscience and PsychologyDirector, Henry H. Wheeler, Jr. Brain Imaging CenterUniversity of California, Berkeley Dr. Mark T. D’Esposito studies the neural bases of high-level cognitive processes such as working memory and executive control. Using a neuroimaging technology, his research lab has identified neuroanatomical substrates and temporal dynamics of various cognitive processes supported by prefrontal cortex. His lab has used pharmacological methods to investigate the role of the dopaminergic system in working memory and frontal lobe function. He has used behavioral and other methodologies to better understand prefrontal function in patient populations and in normal aging.

Ellen Bialystok, OC, PhD, FRSC

Ellen Bialystok, OC, PhD, FRSC

Distinguished Research ProfessorWalter Gordon York Research Chair in Lifespan Cognitive DevelopmentYork University Dr. Bialystok’s research has used behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effect of bilingualism on cognitive processes across the lifespan. Major findings from her work include the identification of differences in the development of essential cognitive and language abilities for bilingual children, the use of different brain networks by monolingual and bilingual young adults performing simple conflict tasks, and the postponement of symptoms of dementia in bilingual older adults. Her research raises the possibility that bilingualism contributes to cognitive reserve, which is associated with a delay in the onset of symptoms of dementia.

 

UofSC Speakers

Rutvik H. Desai

Rutvik H. Desai

Professor of PsychologyCollege of Arts and SciencesUniversity of South Carolina Dr. Desai investigates the neural basis of representation of meanings of words and sentences, in both healthy and neurologically impaired populations.  His lab investigates topics such as involvement of sensory motor systems of the brain in representing concepts, similarities and differences in processing varieties of concepts including abstract ones, processing of language, and brain basis of metaphor understanding. He uses function MRI, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and behavioral studies of patients and healthy individuals to address these issues.

Robert Davis Moore, MS, Ph.D.

Robert Davis Moore, MS, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Exercise ScienceArnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South Carolina Dr. Moore uses a variety of psychophysiological, behavioral, and clinical measures to investigate the short- and long-term outcomes of concussive injuries. His research on concussion focuses on 1) creating more comprehensive and sensitive assessment protocols; 2) identifying factors that moderate injury outcomes; and 3) developing active rehabilitation protocols for post-concussion syndrome. Dr. Moore’s secondary line of research focuses on the influence of health factors such as physical activity, fitness, and obesity on neuropsychological health.

 

2019 Conference Program [pdf]

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