Where does madness happen, and why? Dr. MacDonald's Translational Research in Cognitive and Affective Mechanisms (TRiCAM) laboratory explores the numerous problems that come from this simple question, including basic cognitive and affective studies, clinical studies, and studies that develop new scientific methods.
We explore cognitive and affective processes in healthy populations to determine how these mechanisms work. For example, how does the prefrontal cortex control behavior? What emotions are associated with social decisions such as whether to trust someone? Work in the TRiCAM laboratory also explores the neural and genetic basis of these processes. For example, what brain regions are associated with controlling an emotional response? Is a particular gene relevant to inhibiting an automatic action?
Research in the TRiCAM laboratory also examines what happens when cognitive and affective processes break-down in mental illnesses, with an emphasis on psychosis and schizophrenia. For example, what causes a reduction in prefrontal cortex activity in schizophrenia? Are impairments in cognitive and affective processes associated with the genetic liability to schizophrenia?
Methodologies include magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI, DTI), behavioral genetics (twin and family studies), molecular genetics, clinical assessment, cognitive and social experimental testing. We are also engaged in the development of methods for analyzing fMRI, and solutions to psychometric confounds in the measurement of group differences.
* Inquiries welcome. Mentored opportunities for undergraduate students in the Translational Research in Cognitive and Affective Mechanisms (TRiCAM) laboratory are available through http://fmdb.cla.umn.edu/psyrsh/ by selecting Locate Opportunities and then selecting MacDonald.