Research News Stories

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is pleased to release the 2020-2021 Impact Report for the Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological & Neuroscience Research at Duke University. This special funding report highlights the program's achievements, including stories, data, photographs, and student testimonials. A link to the full 14-page report can be found below.  In a statement from department leadership on June 30, 2021 Professor and Department Chair Scott Huettel shared these words:  The ongoing… read more about Department releases 2020-2021 Charles Lafitte Foundation special funding report »

Members of the Yin Lab including supervisor Dr. Henry Yin, former post-doctoral associate Dr. Glenn Watson, and current Ph.D. candidate in the Systems and Integrative Neuroscience program Ryan Hughes, have discovered a new functional pathway in the brain going from the parafascicular nucleus of the thalamus to the subthalamic nucleus, naming it the ‘super-direct’ pathway. In a recently published paper in AAAS, the team found that by selectively stimulating this pathway, movement and natural behavior were restored in… read more about Yin Lab discovers new ‘super-direct’ functional pathway in the brain »

The Summer Training in Academic Research (STAR) Program, led by Pediatrics faculty members Drs. Kanecia Zimmerman and Danny Benjamin has for many years offered summer research experiences for local high school and undergraduate students. Former participants have been deeply engaged in biomedical research at Duke and nearly all have become co-authors on scientific papers.  This year, through generous support from the Biogen Foundation, P&N faculty members Drs.… read more about Neuroscience extension to Duke STAR program funded by Biogen Foundation »

Duke researchers, led by Reut Avinun Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate at Professor Ahmad Hariri’s lab, analyzed the MRI scans of over a thousand people to determine potential links between personality and brain shape.   Although there are many personality neuroscience studies, consistent and reliable findings have not been established. While most previous studies used less than 300 individuals, this study has a large sample of 1,107 individuals. Additionally, this research comprehensively measures personality with 240… read more about New study from Hariri Lab casts doubt on links between personality and brain structure »

All Babies and Children Thrive (ABC Thrive) has awarded seed grants of up to $40,000 to four interdisciplinary teams of Duke faculty, two of which are teams from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. The teams will explore new interventions to support positive early childhood development ranging from tools for earlier identification of children at risk for neurodevelopmental challenges, to methods for teaching young children prosocial behaviors, to improving outcomes for black children and families through early… read more about Two P&N faculty teams receive ABC Thrive Seed Grants to improve early childhood outcomes »

Sarah Gaither, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience has received the prestigious 2020 Sage Young Scholar Award.  The Sage Young Scholar Awards recognize outstanding achievements by young scholars who are early in their research careers. The awards are intended to provide these scholars with funds that can be flexibly applied in extending their work in new and exciting directions. Previous recipients of this award have gone on to positions of intellectual leadership in the field. Because… read more about Sarah Gaither receives 2020 SAGE Young Scholar Award  »

Eight faculty members from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience have been awarded Research Seed Grants via philanthropic support from The Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological and Neuroscience Research at Duke University. The faculty projects – all chosen by review committee – show great promise both for generating exceptional research and for providing opportunities for students. In a letter to recipients, P&N Chair Scott Huettel offered congratulations, stating, "It has been… read more about 2020-2021 Faculty Research Seed Grant recipients announced »

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is pleased to release its special funding 2019-2020 Impact Report, Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological Research at Duke University. The document highlights the program's achievements with feature stories, data, photographs, and student testimonials. A link to the full 15-page report can be found below.  In a statement from leadership about the special funding opportunities provided to the department, Professor and Department Chair Scott… read more about Special Funding Report 2019-2020: Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological Research at Duke University »

In the summer of 2020, the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience issued a charge to form the P&N Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Climate. As its first act, The Task Force created the Stella Powell-Williams Award, using internal support to supplement selected grants submitted as part of a special call for graduate and postdoctoral research projects related to identity, diversity, inclusion, equity, and thriving. The Task Force created this award… read more about Task Force announces recipients of the 2020 Stella Powell-Williams Award »

Different use of brain circuits may help explain the tenacity of post-traumatic stress Published: June 29, 2020 in Duke Today by Karl Leif Bates DURHAM, N.C. – Your brain handles a perceived threat differently depending on how close it is to you. If it’s far away, you engage more problem-solving areas of the brain. But up close, your animal instincts jump into action and there isn’t as much reasoning, like when the guy at the haunted house jumps up right next to you. And that, according to a new… read more about New Study from the Lab of Professor Kevin LaBar Reveals that Closer Threats Inspire a More Primitive Kind of Fear »

Studies of Brain Activity Aren't as Useful as Scientists Thought, By Karl Leif Bates, Published June 3, 2020  Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it's possible to predict an individual’s patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks. But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any… read more about Professor Ahmad Hariri Reanalyzes Years of Functional MRI Data »

In response to the changed research climate in the era of COVID-19, the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience put out a special call for Graduate/Postdoctoral Research Awards: Psychological Research related to COVID-19.  With generous support from The Charles Lafitte Foundation, funds that were  was previously designated for now prohibited conference attendance and travel were redirected to support small research projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has raised… read more about P&N Graduates Awarded Funding for Psychological Research Related to COVID-19 »

Members of the Yin Lab including Ryan Hughes, Konstantin Bakhurin, Elijah Petter, Glenn Watson, Namsoo Kim, Alexander Friedman, and Henry Yin have published a new paper on the functional significance of dopamine in the journal Current Biology.  Despite decades of research, the exact function of dopamine remains controversial.  While many believe that it encodes a reward prediction error (RPE), the Yin Lab's reseach demonstrates in the paper that it actually reflects the impulse vector: the force… read more about Yin Lab Publishes Paper in Current Biology: Ventral Tegmental Dopamine Neurons Control the Impulse Vector during Motivated Behavior »

UPDATE as of March 11, 2020: To minimize potential health risks amid COVID-19 concerns, Duke University has cancelled all Duke-sponsored in-person events; therefore, the North Carolina Cognition Meeting scheduled for March 21st, 2020 is cancelled. All registrants will receive a refund. Duke University's Psychology & Neuroscience Department will proudly host the 2020 Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Cognition Group. The annual conference will take place on March 21st, 2020 in the … read more about Duke Hosts Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Cognition Group »

P&N Professors Avshalom Caspi & Terrie Moffitt, and Duke Postdocs Leah Richmond-Rakerd & Renate Houts publish paper in Nature Human Behavior: "Clustering of health, crime and social-welfare inequality in 4 million citizens from two nations."  Abstract:  Health and social scientists have documented the hospital revolving-door problem, the concentration of crime, and long-term welfare dependence. Have these distinct fields identified the same citizens? Using administrative databases linked to 1.7 million… read more about P&N Professors Caspi & Moffitt and Duke Postdocs Richmond-Rakerd & Houts Publish New Research Findings  »

P&N graduate student Matthew Bachman and Professor Scott Huettel publish paper in Nature Human Behavior: "Motivated control as a bridge between neuroeconomics and cognitive neuroscience."    read more about P&N Graduate Student and Professor Co-Author Paper in Nature Human Behavior »

Gregory Samanez-Larkin, assistant professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke, received an Early Career Award this October from the Society for Neuroeconomics for research that examines how aging affects motivation and cognition across the lifespan. The award recognizes significant contributions to understanding the neural basis of decision making, or the impact of this knowledge on formal understanding of decision behavior, according to the society website. “So many people invested so much in training me that I am… read more about P&N Faculty Member Gregory Samanez-Larkin Recognized for Research at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics »

11 faculty members from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience have been awarded Research Seed Grants via philanthropic support from The Charles Lafitte Foundation. The faculty projects – all of which exhibit great promise for generating exceptional research – were chosen by review committee. Award letters stated, “It has been heartening to see all of the creative ways our faculty proposed to engage students in world-class science – and to anticipate how these projects would have continuing impact over the coming… read more about 11 P&N Faculty Members Selected for 2019-2020 Research Seed Grants »

Congratulations to Julia Nicholas, winner of the 2019 Karl E. Zener Award. This award is given annually to an undergraduate psychology major at Duke University who has shown outstanding performance and scholarship, as determined on the basis of both the honors thesis (evaluated by a committee of faculty members) and the total academic record. "Julia is going to make the world a better place," said Dr. Nancy Zucker, her faculty mentor. "She is passionate about studying how people's negative life experiences, such as the… read more about Julia Nicholas wins 2019 Zener award »

The Duke Global Digital Health Science Center (Duke Digital Health), which is directed by Gary Bennett (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and P&N Professor) and Dori Steinberg (Duke University School of Nursing) moved to the newly renovated suite in the basement of the Sociology-Psychology building last week. While they are getting settled in to their new space they remain focused on their mission: to close health disparities using digital health. They do this by designing, testing, and disseminating effective… read more about Duke Digital Health Moves to Sociology-Psychology Building »

Congratulations to P&N's Elika Bergelson for receiving a 2018-2019 Research Incubator Award from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. The awards provide seed funding to support collaborative brain science research for projects of exceptional innovation and broad significance to the field. The projects engage at least two faculty representing multiple fields or levels of analysis and bring together investigators from across Duke whose individual programs of research are not already… read more about Elika Bergelson Receives DIBS Research Incubator Award  »

The Duke Identity and Diversity Lab, led by Dr. Sarah Gaither, had an amazing showing with other Duke P&N members at the Society of Southeastern Social Psychologist Conference this year. Their day started off with lab manager Joshua Perlin's first ever data blitz talk on prosocial behaviors for children sharing across racial group lines. Next, graduate students Brenda Straka and Adam Stanaland each presented their first conference talks on their work focusing on social exclusion expectations and gender identity threat… read more about Society of Southeastern Social Psychologists Conference Reflections »

Psychology & Neuroscience is proud to announce the inaugural winners of the Graduate / Postdoctoral research awards. These students and fellows each received awards of up to $5,000 to spark novel research projects and to connect their research ideas to faculty and undergraduate students in our department. Christina Bejjani Modeling How Episodic Memory Affects the Learning of Cognitive Control on an Individual and Group Level Alexander Breslav Do computational models of human learning generalize to… read more about P&N Graduate Students and Postdocs Receive Research Seed Grants »

Moffitt pictured in blue frames, although she rotates approximately four frames at any given time, photo by Chen Duke Psychology and Neuroscience Professor Terrie Moffitt was recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine, a leading organization providing advice on health, science and technology. P&N held a reception in her honor on Friday, 10/26. A Colorful Mind The interior of the Grey Building, where the Moffitt Lab resides, is anything but grey. Duke Psychology and Neuroscience Professor Terrie… read more about P&N Person of the Week: Terrie Moffitt »

What makes it so difficult to change our minds about moral issues, despite new information that contradicts our beliefs? P&N Grad Student Matthew Stanley and team recently published a paper that gives us some clues. The work was highlighted recently by the American Psychological Association's PEEPS, or "Particularly Exciting Experiments in Psychology." Stanley is a PhD student in Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University who entered through the Cognitive… read more about Moral Reasoning: Why it's hard to change beliefs »

 Professor John Curry has recorded a DVD, Cognitive Behavior Therapy For Adolescent Depression,  as part of the American Psychological Association's video series.   The cognitive-behavioral approach demonstrated in this program by Dr. Curry is based in developmental psychopathology and social cognitive learning theory, and typically includes behavioral activation, problem-solving, and cognitive restructuring. In the therapy demonstration, Dr. Curry applies his approach to… read more about Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Adolescent Depression »

This week P&N kicked off their summer Vertical Integration program (VIP). VIP is the annual summer research program for Psychology majors, the intent of which is to give participants a head start on work that may culminate in a senior thesis.  VIP students conduct research with both a graduate student and faculty mentor, attend a semi-weekly seminar series, attend a biweekly statistics workshop, and finally present their work to their peers, mentors, and (via poster session) the wider University community.  Program… read more about 2018 Summer Vertical Integration Program, May 15-July 12 »

Duke Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience Jennifer Groh and a team of researchers have found that simply moving the eyes triggers the eardrums to move too. In a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found that keeping the head still but shifting the eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of any sounds. "This was really a team effort, instigated by a very determined Kurtis Gruters who received his PhD for this work, and… read more about The Eardrums Move When the Eyes Move »

  A new study by lead author Elika Bergelson is being reported in a number of media outlets, including The Atlantic;  Reuters;  The Guardian;  International Business Times; Science News; and Duke Today.   Bergelson's lab used eye tracking data to show that babies understand that the meanings of some groups of words, such as "juice and milk," are more alike than other groups, such as "juice and car."   The research  paper combines two approaches: measuring what infants know in the lab with eyetracking, and measuring… read more about Babies Understand When Words are Related »

Sooner or later, almost everyone has an experience that could be diagnosed as a mental disorder. That’s the take-home message from a new feature article P&N graduate students Aaron Reuben and Jonathan Schaefer recently wrote  for Scientific American. Their article, based on Schaefer’s research in the Moffitt and Caspi Lab, makes a strong argument against the stigma of mental illness, suggesting that psychological disorders are a very routine part of the human experience. Reuben and Schaefer are both clinical graduate… read more about Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness »