Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Samuel Francis Moore Humanities and Social Science

The Effects of Aging on the Controlled Aspects of Novelty Processing: An ERP Study of Emotionally Salient Events

The ability to detect, evaluate and immediately respond to unexpected changes in one’s environment is an important, adaptive characteristic of mammalian behavior. This process begins with an initial orienting response and continues with subsequent evaluative processes aimed at determining the significance of deviant events. These stages of novelty processing can be measured by averaging electroencephalogram (EEG) signals that are time-locked to event-related potentials (ERPs). My study will investigate the effects of aging on one of these ERPs (termed the Late Frontal Negativity, or LFN), thought to correspond with the mental evaluation of the significance of novel stimuli. I hypothesize that the LFN amplitude will be reduced in older relative to younger subjects and that this reduction will be attributable, at least in part, to the frontally-dependent cognitive dysfunctions associated with aging. The findings of this study will complement current research investigating regions of the brain that are critical to the LFN, and will contribute to a broader understanding of aging and its effects on cognitive and attentional processes.

Message To Sponsor

Ever since I came to Cal, I've had a lot of trouble narrowing down my various interests and passions. Even after deciding to major in Psychology, there were still many sub-fields from which I had to choose a focus, including social psychology, developmental psychology, and biological psychology. The SURF fellowship has given me the opportunity to extensively delve into one such sub-field --cognitive neuropsychology-- by providing me with both the finances and time required to investigate the fascinating and perplexing issues at the forefront of this area. It will also enable me to produce a much better senior thesis, which will no doubt assist me in pursuing post-graduate opportunities. I am incredibly grateful for the award, and will use it to the fullest when gathering ERP data for my study this summer.
Major: Psychology
Mentor: Robert Knight, Psychology
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