Imaging the living human brain during cognitive tasks is now possible using non-invasive techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). From attention and learning to emotion and language, fMRI is being applied in many different areas of Cognitive Neuroscience. In many cases, this research relies upon support from healthy volunteers although neuroimaging studies are also being conducted in clinical populations.
The research focus of the Biological Psychology Group is on attention, learning and plasticity and the pharmacological modulation of such processes. The combination of pharmacological challenges with a cognitive tasks in the context of fMRI studies is a powerful approach to directly assess pharmacological modulation of human brain activity. We have performed several pharmacological fMRI studies showing a cholinergic modulation of learning-related auditory plasticity and visuospatial attention. A long-term goal of such studies is to provide an experimental approach that has relevance to studying mechanisms of recovery and treatment effects in patients with neurological damage.