Research

The lab conducts research in many areas related to behavior theory, that is, the understanding of animal and human behavior using theoretical models. Experimental research and software development are also important activities, the first to evaluate theoretical models of behavior, and the second to support theoretical effort with appropriate software tools. You can read below a short description of our current research projects.

If you are reading this because you are interested in joining the lab, you will also find below a description of the work each project requires and a list of recommended or necessary qualifications.

Associative Learning

We test existing models of associative learning using human participants and a software to present stimuli and record responses that we have developed in-house. We also develop improvements to existing models and analyze models theoretically to evaluate the extent to which they account for known phenomena of associative learning.

Description of work: Running and scheduling participants, managing the lab day to day including coordinating with other lab members and attending lab meetings.

Qualifications: For empirical work: Some familiarity with associative learning (e.g., having taken PSYC 3510 Learning at Brooklyn College, or similar class). Some ability to learn new software programs (to run and/or design experiments). For theoretical work: Some familiarity with college-level math (e.g., calculus and/or linear algebra). Some familiarity with computer programming and/or scientific software.

Meta-analysis

Meta-analysis refers to collecting data from many published studies and analyzing them as a whole to discern patterns that cannot be observed in single studies. We are currently conducting meta-analysis on the phenomenon of summation (if the animal knows that stimuli A and B, separately, predict a meaningful outcome, e.g., food, what will it think when seeing A and B together?) and on animal short-term memory.

Description of work: Reading and collecting data from published paper, entering data in spreadsheets, data analysis, report preparation.

Qualifications: Spreadsheet software, willingness to learn new software (for data extraction from published figures). Knowledge of statistics and statistical software are a plus.

Behavioral robotics

We are developing a simple robot that will serve as a platform to test models of learning and behavior (in a nutshell, it will be a “robot rat” undergoing the same experiments used to study learning and behavior in real animals).

Description of work: Development and maintenance of electronic parts and software running on the robot. Lots of testing. Development of an environment in which to test the robot.

Qualifications: Familiarity with Linux (the robot uses a Raspberry Pi computer running Linux). Familiarity with computer programming (C, shell scripts). Familiarity with simple electronics (control of DC and servo motors).

Software development

We develop software to assist our research activities. Software that is currently under active development includes:

  • Our in-house software to control experiments (programmed in PEBL)
  • A library for neural network simulations (programmed in C)
  • A software to aid analysis of associative learning models (programmed in python)

Description of work: Testing, development of new features, documentation.

Qualifications: General understanding of programming concepts, experience with actual programming in one or more languages.

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