BIRC news

Talk: Kimberly Noble, Columbia University

Tuesday, December 3rd from 1:30-3:00 pm in Arjona 307

Abstract: Socioeconomic disparities in childhood are associated with remarkable differences in cognitive and socio-emotional development during a time when dramatic changes are occurring in the brain. Recent work has focused on understanding the neurobiological pathways through which socioeconomic factors shape development. Behavioral evidence suggests that language, memory, social-emotional skills, and executive functions exhibit relatively large differences across socioeconomic lines, and more recent work has found differences in socioeconomic differences in brain structure in the very regions that support these skills. It is likely that socioeconomic factors operate via multiple mechanisms to explain the development of different neural circuits. A theoretical model will be presented whereby differences in the home language environment and family stress likely impact particular brain systems, which in turn support distinct neurocognitive skills. Evidence for the model, as well as ongoing and future work testing aspects of the model, will be discussed. Finally, the question of interventions will be addressed, along with an overview of Baby’s First Years, the first clinical trial of poverty reduction in early childhood.

Bio:Kimberly Noble, MD, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her undergraduate, graduate and medical degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. As a neuroscientist and board-certified pediatrician, she studies how socioeconomic inequality relates to in children’s cognitive and brain development.  Her work examines socioeconomic disparities in cognitive development, as well as brain structure and function, across infancy, childhood and adolescence. She is particularly interested in understanding how early in infancy or toddlerhood such disparities develop; the modifiable environmental differences that account for these disparities; and the ways we might harness this research to inform the design of interventions. She is one of the principal investigators of the Baby’s First Years study: the first clinical trial of poverty reduction to assess the causal impact of income on children’s cognitive, emotional and brain development in the first three years of life. Dr. Noble was elected a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and was awarded a 2017 Association for Psychological Science Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions. Her work linking family income to brain structure across childhood and adolescence has received worldwide attention in the popular press.

**Register here for Webex**

Please email if you are interested in meeting with a speaker. Click here to see the full BIRC Speaker Series schedule and access recordings of past talks.

Talk: Stephanie Jones, Brown University

Brown University

Tuesday, November 5th from 1:30-3:00 pm in Arjona 307

Abstract: EEG and MEG are the leading methods to non-invasively record human neural dynamics with millisecond temporal resolution. However, it can be extremely difficult to infer the underlying cellular and circuit level origins of these macro-scale signals without simultaneous invasive recordings. This limits the translation of EEG/MEG into novel principles of information processing, or into new treatment modalities for neural pathologies. To address this need, we developed the Human Neocortical Neurosolver (HNN:, a new user-friendly neural modeling tool designed to help researchers and clinicians interpret human imaging data. In this talk, I will give an overview of this new tool and describe an application to study the origin and meaning of 15-29Hz beta frequency oscillations, known to be important for sensory and motor function. I will also touch on other applications of HNN to study the mechanistic origin of functionally relevant human EEG/MEG and modulation in these signals with non-invasive brain stimulation. In total, HNN provides an unpresented biophysically principled tool to link mechanism to meaning of human EEG/MEG signals.

Bio: Stephanie R. Jones, PhD is Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University. She received her doctorate in mathematics from Boston University, followed by training in neuroscience and human MEG/EEG at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research program integrates these disciplines to develop biophysically principled computational neural models that bridge the critical gap between human MEG/EEG brain imaging signals and their underlying cellular and network level generators. Dr. Jones’s group is currently expanding their interdisciplinary program to the field of non-invasive brain stimulation. A primary goal is to translate an understanding of the network mechanism underlying non-invasively measured brain signals into brain stimulation strategies to improve disrupted brain function.

**To view this talk remotely via Webex, please register hereby October 29th**

Please email if you are interested in meeting with a speaker. Click here to see the full BIRC Speaker Series schedule and access recordings of past talks.

MRI Scanner Operation Training for Qualified Candidates

The Brain Imaging Research Center now offers qualified candidates the opportunity to learn how to operate the Siemens Prisma 3T MRI Scanner to perform brain research studies. This training will consist of three components:
Didactic – All candidates will be required to attend a two-hour class about MRI safety tailored to issues that can be encountered during data acquisition. This training will include: Preventing radiofrequency (RF) burns; working with Specific Absorption Rates (SAR); proper participant preparation; quench emergency procedures. Note: a basic knowledge of MRI physics is necessary for this class.
Instrumentation – All candidates will be required to attend a two-hour class to learn basic scanner operation, including: User platform orientation (Syngo VE11C); coil selection and handling; participant positioning; BOLD screen operation; Eye Link operation; response box selection and operation; image transfer to NiDB or XNAT; basictroubleshooting.
Scanner Operation – All candidates will be required to successfully complete a minimum of twenty research scan sessions that include fMRI (BOLD) imaging, structural sequences, and DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) with direct supervision by an MRI Technologist. Scanning studies currently active at BIRC may complete this requirement. Additional scan sessions may be required at the discretion of the supervising technologist.
After successful completion of the above training, the candidate will be allowed to scan his or her own studies without direct supervision. Note: An MRI technologist must be in the facility for all scan sessions.
Candidates must maintain their status by completing a minimum of one study per month. Failure to do so will require a minimum of two directly supervised scan sessions per missed month.
Training is expected to begin the week of October 28 2019, allowing the candidate to be prepared to scan his or her own study during the spring semester.
Qualified candidate prerequisites:
      • Post doc with a commitment to remain for a minimum of one year (must be endorsed by PI)
      • Graduate student who has completed their Masters degree and must be endorsed by PI
      • Formal knowledge of basic MRI physics
      • Completion of Level 1 and Level 2 Safety Training
      • CPR certified (must provide documentation prior to scanning humans)

Online classes available at

Interested candidates can apply for this training opportunity by providing the following information and documentation:
      • PI name, duration of contract, and written endorsement
      • Proof of formal basic MRI physics education
      • Any previous MRI experience
      • Study name, projected start date, and expected number of participants
Important dates:
      • Application submission: October 7-October 18 2019
      • Candidate acceptance notification: October 25 2019
      • Didactic and Instrumentation training: November 2019 (dates TBD)
      • Scanner Operation: November 2019 until completed
Please send the requested information to:

Elisa Medeiros, R.T.(R)(CT)(MR)
Manager, MRI Services
University of Connecticut
Brain Imaging Research Center
2 Alethia Drive Unit 1271
Storrs CT 06269-1271

Talk: Uri Hasson, Princeton University

Uri Hasson, PhD

Princeton University

Tuesday, October 15th from 1:30-3:00 pm in Arjona 307

Abstract: Cognition materializes in an interpersonal space. At present, little is known about the neural substrates that underlie our ability to communicate with other brains in naturalistic settings. In the talk I will introduce novel methodological and analytical tools for characterizing the neural responses during production and comprehension of complex real-life speech. By directly comparing the neural activity timecourses during production and comprehension of the same narrative, we were able to identify areas in which the neural activity is correlated (coupled) across the speaker’s and listener’s brains during communication. Furthermore, the listener brain activity mirrors that of the speaker with a constant delay of three seconds. This mirroring was eliminated when the communication signals were misaligned. Finally, the stronger the speaker- listener coupling the greater listener comprehension. We argue that the observed coupling of production and comprehension-based processes serves as a mechanism by which brains convey information.

Bio: Uri Hasson grew up in Jerusalem. As an undergrad he studied philosophy and cognitive sciences at the Hebrew University. He completed his Ph.D. in Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and was a postdoctoral fellow at NYU before moving to Princeton. He is currently a Professor in the Psychology Department and the Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University. His research program aims to understand the neural basis of face-to-face, brain-to-brain, social interaction, with a focus on verbal communication and storytelling in real-life contexts.

**To view this talk remotely via Webex, please register here by October 8th**

Please email if you are interested in meeting with a speaker. Click here to see the full BIRC Speaker Series schedule and access recordings of past talks.

Talk: Tor Wager, Dartmouth College

Tor Wager, PhD

Dartmouth College

Tuesday, September 10th from 1:30-3pm in Arjona 3o7

Abstract: Pain and emotion are central to human life. Their experience defines our wellbeing, and the brain processes that underlie them drive behavior and learning. Developing models of the brain systems that generate pain and emotion could transform how we understand their neurophysiological origins, and how we understand interventions ranging from drugs to psychotherapy. However, developing such models will require computational advances, particularly in our ability to model how emergent properties like pain arise from complex interactions among brain systems. In this talk, I describe an approach and a series of studies aimed at constructing models of pain and other forms of affect with high neuroscientific interpretability, predictive validity, and reproducibility. Combining fMRI with machine learning techniques, we have developed brain models capable of predicting the intensity of pain, negative affect, empathy, autonomic activity, and other subjective experiences in individual participants. In addition to utility as biomarkers and targets for both psychological and drug interventions, these models can provide insight into how the brain represents multiple varieties of affective experience. 

Bio: Tor Wager is the Diana L. Taylor Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience at Dartmouth College. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Cognitive Psychology in 2003, and served as an Assistant (2004-2008) and Associate Professor (2009) at Columbia University, and as Associate (2010-2014) and Full Professor (2014-2019) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Since 2004, he has directed the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience laboratory, a research lab devoted to work on the neurophysiology of affective processes—pain, emotion, stress, and empathy—and how they are shaped by cognitive and social influences. Dr. Wager and his lab are also dedicated to developing analysis methods for functional neuroimaging and sharing ideas, tools, and scientific data with the scientific community and public. See http://wagerlab.colorado.eduand http://canlab.github.iofor papers, data, tools, and code.

**To view this talk remotely via Webex, please register here by September 3rd**

Please email if you are interested in meeting with a speaker. Click here to see the full BIRC Speaker Series schedule and access recordings of past talks.

Expanding Minds: BIRC Community Outreach

The UConn BIRC was recently featured in UConn Today for community outreach. The center hosted students from E.O. Smith High School for a tour of the facility and informational sessions led by faculty, staff, and graduate students.

For the original story in UConn Today and photographs, please click here.

Fumiko Hoeft Receives Eye-to-Eye Academic Excellence Award

Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD recently received an award from nonprofit organization Eye-to-Eye for her work with Stephanie Haft: Impact of mentoring on socio‐emotional and mental health outcomes of youth with learning disabilities and attention‐deficit hyperactivity disorder. The paper can be accessed here.

To learn more about Eye-to-Eye and their mission, visit their website.

InCHIP Virtual Meet ‘n’ Greet: UConn Brain Imaging Imaging Research Center

Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, Director of the UConn Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) shares information regarding the state-of-the-art equipment, methods, and training offered by BIRC and how the center supports both brain and whole-body imaging and research across the life span in addition to a range of clinical and nonclinical populations. She also covers BIRC equipment that can be used for research purposes includes MRI/fMRI scanner, TMS, tDCS/tACS, and EEG.

Also, watch to learn more about a $30,000 seed grant opportunity that InCHIP and BIRC are co-sponsoring!

Click here to watch the full InCHIP Virtual Meet ‘n’ Greet BIRC Seminar

Click here to view the slide deck in pdf format