Dr. Ronald Salomon, M.D., Dr. Linda Larson-Prior, Ph.D., and Aaron S. Kemp

The human brain is a complex dynamic system well suited to adapt to novel situations while retaining a stable and predictable response repertoire. While the brain exhibits clear structural stability, even this level of organization adaptively changes in response to internal and external cues. To understand how the brain reorganizes in response to physical, emotional or disease-related challenges, we need to fully understand the dynamics of brain function at multiple spatial and temporal levels. It is the mission of PRI’s Neurocognitive Dynamics Laboratory to explore brain function at the mesoscopic level using multimodal neuroimaging approaches. To this end, the laboratory has focused on changes in healthy and damaged brain network activity in the transition of system state from wake to sleep and the impact of these state changes on cognitive function (e.g., learning, memory, decisions) across the lifespan.

The Neurocognitive Dynamics Laboratory utilizes electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore brain function on the mesoscopic level. Located on the second floor of PRI, the lab has three sound isolation chambers as well as a geodesic photogrammetry system (GPS). The sound isolation chambers will block out any radio-frequency noise that could interfere with subjects performing tasks while wearing EEG monitors. The GPS uses 11 cameras mounted in a geodesic array to photograph sensors on the research subject’s head, allowing the simultaneous recording of all sensor positions.

Led by Linda Larson-Prior, Ph.D., the Neurocognitive Dynamics Laboratory focuses its research on how the brain modulates its activity, particularly when it has been damaged as a result of injury or illness. The issue of sleep, or the lack thereof, and its effects on the brain is one of Larson-Prior’s primary interests. The isolation chambers are used to study the sleep habits of subjects and their brain activity while performing cognitive tests.

The laboratory works with medical students and undergraduate students to study a variety of neurological illnesses, like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Aaron S. Kemp, the laboratory’s research program manager, and Larson-Prior act as mentors for the students and guide them in an effort to promote their research activities.

Larson-Prior joined the Psychiatric Research Institute in 2015 from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., where she was an associate professor in the Department of Neurology. She graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in Arabic and anthropology, received her master’s in Physical Anthropology from Case Western Reserve University and her doctorate in Neurobiology from Kent State University.

Some of the Neurocognitive Dynamics Laboratory’s current projects: