The various Center projects examine brain activation as subjects perform various high-level tasks such as sentence comprehension, spatial thinking, and problem solving. The goal of the studies is to determine how a network of brain areas, each area having some preferred function, collaborates to perform each task. In effect, we can measure the workload or capacity utilization of many of the major components of the cognitive system.
Similar fMRI methods are applied in the different projects. Many of the projects examine normal cognitive functioning in demanding high-level tasks. Other projects focus on special populations, such as patients with autism. There are several cross-cutting themes that relate the various projects, such as cognitive load, individual differences, and collaboration (co-activation) across large scale networks.
We use the 3T Siemens Verio Scanner at the new Scientific Imaging and Brain Research Center (SIBR) at CMU. This scanner provides outstanding stability and Signal-to-Noise-Ratio performance, making it possible to see systematic brain activation associated with various cognitive processes. In most of our studies, we acquire one complete brain image (consisting of 17 5mm brain slices) once every second, so we can have high resolution imaging of a large volume of brain. This fMRI approach promises to provide a key link between the cognitive and brain level of processing, resulting in an enormously enriched and refined understanding of cognition.