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Hardware, Software, and Statistical Tools for Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Author(s): Johnson, Teryn D
  • Advisor(s): Coleman, Todd P
  • Rangel, Lara M
  • et al.
Abstract

Prosocial behavior is a complex phenomenon that is poorly understood neurobiologically. While it is known that social interactions engage the amygdala, the insular cortex, and the autonomic nervous system, the manner in which these systems interact to cooperatively support prosocial behavior is not known. To investigate the neurobiological underpinnings of prosociality, it is critical to develop a tightly controlled paradigm that is capable of isolating the elements that give rise to prosocial actions. Chapter One describes the design of an effective, low-cost paradigm for investigating prosociality in rats in which one rat has the ability to stop an aggravating air stimulus from affecting another rat. Researchers are provided with a graphical user interface to control, view, and record behavioral epochs in real time. This paradigm has the potential to become a widely-used standard in the field of social neuroscience.

The temporal coordination of neural activity in rhythms has been hypothesized to be critical for communication between interacting brain regions. Chapter Two proposes a novel pipeline for investigating the manner in which the rhythmic activity in one brain region constrains its ability to influence the activity of another structure. The proposed method uses a generalized linear model with Von Mises distributions as phase regressors to assess the extent to which the phase of neural oscillations in one brain region predicts the neural spiking activity in a downstream region. The pipeline described in this chapter is a novel approach to characterizing the relationship between continuous neural oscillations and discrete spiking activity.

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