Cognition and Neuroscience

The Cognition and Neuroscience (C&N) area awards both master’s degrees and Ph.D.s. Typically, students earn their master's degree in the second or third year and Ph.D. approximately two years later. In addition to departmental coursework, the C&N area offers a wide range of seminars. In the past few years, the following have been offered: Perception; Mind Drugs, and Behavior; Working Memory; Neuroimaging Methods; and Cognitive Aging. The C&N area participates in the Teaching of Psychology Practicum (TOPP) program in which graduate students teach their own course in their third or fourth year. Please see the Graduate Programs for more information about graduate study. 

Refer to our Diversity and Inclusion Plan for information on how we are fulfilling the STRIVE approach of the Department. 

Coronal for Cognition and Neuroscience


Research in the C&N area is diverse, spanning memory, perception, action, cognition, animal learning, decision making, reward systems, addiction, and aging. Our researchers engage in a wide variety of experimental approaches. At human research labs, these include statistical and mathematical modeling, electrophysiology, and brain imaging. At our animal research labs, investigators use behavioral, pharmacological, and molecular methods. C&N is a founding partner in the Department's Brain Imaging Center. Our primary goal is to prepare outstanding scholars and researchers.

Colloquium and Conferences 

The C&N area hosts a weekly colloquium series featuring talks from faculty and students inside and outside the C&N area. C&N also holds a joint meeting, The Showme Mental State Conference, with the Brain and Cognitive Science group at Washington University.  

Faculty Research Areas

Behavioral Neuroscience 

Dennis Miller, biological basis of pain and anxiety 

Todd Schachtman, neuroscience: conditioning and retention; Alzheimer's; diet; spatial cognition 

Matthew Will, neural regulation of motivation and reward 

David Beversdorf, neuropsychopharmacology and prenatal stress in autism; stress, creativity, and neuroimaging 

Cognitive Neuroscience 

Nelson Cowan, working memory, short-term memory, attention, and their childhood development 

Brett Froeliger, translational neuroscience, addiction pathophysiology 

Jeff Johnson, cognitive and neural basis of episodic memory 

Steve Hackley, cognitive neuroscience of attention and action 

Moshe Naveh-Benjamin, human memory processes including adult-age changes in episodic memory and the interplay between attention and memory 

Shawn Christ, cognitive and neural processes underlying typical and atypical development 

Scott Frey, neuroplasticity and evidence-based rehabilitation 

David Beversdorf, neuropsychopharmacology and prenatal stress in autism; stress, creativity, and neuroimaging 

Ashley Curtis, healthy and pathological cognitive aging, as well as behavioral sleep medicine 

Cognitive Psychology 

Nelson Cowan, working memory, short-term memory, attention, and their childhood development 

Moshe Naveh-Benjamin, human memory processes including adult-age changes in episodic memory and the interplay between attention and memory 

Ashley Curtis, healthy and pathological cognitive aging, as well as behavioral sleep medicine 

Lab Director Location
Attention and Distraction Lab Website

In daily life, we are often overloaded by multiple competing stimuli and tasks. To function efficiently, we use mechanisms of attention to selectively process the most relevant sensory information and juggle our cognitive processing resources amongst the most important tasks. Our research aims to understand in the cognitive neuroscience underlying attentional processes in humans. These topics are studies via experiments that measure behavior, eye movements, and event-related potentials (ERPs).

**We are looking for paid participants in our studies. Click here for more info!**

Nicholas Gaspelin Rms. 50–60, McReynolds Hall
Behavioral Neuroscience

Investigating motivational circuits underlying drug and natural rewards (i.e. food and exercise)

Matthew J. Will
Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

Research at my lab deals with the neural basis of attention, awareness, and action. Event-related potentials (ERPs), startle-blink, and neuroimaging techniques are used to identify the locus and time course of relevant brain processes in normal and neurologically impaired adults.

Lab Flyer
Steven A. Hackley 108 Psychology Building
cofresilab Roberto Cofresí
Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

Our lab is currently involved in research on autism, dementia, cognitive effects of stress, the cognitive neuroscience of problem solving ability, functional neuroimaging, and pharmacological modulation of cognition.

David Beversdorf Thompson Center, Suite 110
Dr. Schachtman's Laboratory

Associative Learning; Glutamate receptors and learning and behavior; Stimulus competition during associative and attributional processes

Lab Flyer
Todd R. Schachtman
Health Neuroscience Center

The Health Neuroscience Center (HNC) is organized around using cognitive and affective neuroscience methods to investigate the pathophysiology of drug addiction and neuropsychiatric disorders. Our goal is to provide a bridge between preclinical and clinical trials research to better understand the etiology of dysregulated behavior and the effectiveness of new treatment that may ultimately be used in the clinic. We are currently conducting research in nicotine addiction and opioid use disorder; and examining the effects of novel pharmacological, non-invasive neural stimulation and behavioral-based treatments for substance use disorders. Each research project is conducted using human subjects and leverages a broad array of techniques, including fMRI brain imaging, lab-based behavioral measures, and remote behavioral monitoring and assessments. The HNC invites students, fellows, and faculty to discuss ways to collaborate on mind-blowing research that may hold the potential to reduce human suffering and improve well-being.

Brett Froeliger 15 Melvin H. Marx Building, 1416 Carrie Francke Dr.
Memory and Cognitive Aging Laboratory

***NOTE - I will be considering doctoral applicants for the Fall 2024 academic year***

Research at our laboratory concerns fundamental issues regarding human memory processes and structures. One line of this research explores the interplay between attention and memory, with the intention of determining the role of attention as a part of Working Memory in encoding and retrieval processes. Another line of research investigates the mechanisms responsible for the adult-age changes in episodic memory. Finally, we are also interested in questions relating to the role of memory processes in real-life settings, including the relationships between the acquisition and retention of knowledge.

Adult-age changes in episodic memory

A major line of our research investigates the decline in memory efficiency that comes about with age. A major empirical and theoretical effort in our research over the years has been to understand age-related changes in encoding and retrieval processes. Recently, we have suggested an associative deficit framework that attributes an important part of age-related changes in episodic memory to the deficiency of older adults in creating and retrieving links between individual units of information. In recent studies we have shown that older adults can encode and retrieve the components of an episode reasonably well, but have problems in merging those components into a cohesive unit. In our current research, we are trying to provide convergent validity to this hypothesis, as well as discriminant validity, by contrasting and testing competing predictions made by the associative deficit hypothesis and by alternative hypotheses. Our plans are to further test specific predictions made by this hypothesis, as well as to identify the brain correlates associated with this deficit.

The interaction of attention, Working Memory and long-term memory

For several years now, we have been investigating the role of attention in memory processes and memory outcomes. Originally, this research focused on encoding processes, and the results showed complex relationships between the amount of attention paid at encoding and later memory performance. Recently, we have extended this research to memory retrieval processes and showed, together with our collaborators, that there are marked asymmetries between these processes and the processes of encoding. In particular, the damaging effect of withdrawal of attention is much greater at encoding than at retrieval. This suggests that “attentional resources” are needed during the learning of new information, but are less necessary during retrieval. Nonetheless, retrieval processes do exact a performance cost on the secondary task in a dual-task situation, so retrieval cannot be "automatic" as suggested earlier by several researchers.

Our view over the years has been that to understand encoding and retrieval processes, one must isolate their basic components. To this end, we have used online measures of performance to learn about the component processes of encoding and retrieval and to relate them to memory outcomes. In recent years, we have implemented this approach using secondary tracking tasks that allow temporal micro-level analysis, which permits the identification of several basic component processes at encoding and retrieval. These basic components, and the characteristic attentional costs associated with each, seem to predict both the patterns of vulnerability of encoding and retrieval to disruption in divided attention tasks, and the attentional costs incurred in these tasks. We are presently conducting further research along these lines, with the aim of generalizing this approach to normal subjects, as well as to other populations, including the aged and people who have suffered from brain damage.

The role of memory processes in real-life settings, including the relationships between acquisition and retention of knowledge

Over the years I have focused on applying concepts derived from basic memory and cognitive research to understanding real life behavior outside the laboratory, particularly in educational settings. Working with several collaborators, I have studied processes involved in the acquisition and retention of materials in formal settings. Moreover, I have developed several methods of measuring students knowledge structures, and evaluated how these structures change over time, what factors mediate their access and use, and how encoding and retrieval in real life interact with individual differences variables.

Equipment in the lab includes appropriate software packages to run the different types of experiments in the six testing rooms. We have also established a pool of community-dwelling older adults that participate in our experiments.

The current team in the lab includes a postdoctoral fellow, 2 graduate students, and 6 undergraduate students, and we welcome interested graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Moshe Naveh-Benjamin 9B McAlester
Memory and Neuroimaging Lab

***I will NOT be considering PhD applicants for Fall 2024.***

Research in the lab focuses on episodic memory and uses two non-invasive brain imaging techniques: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG).

Jeffrey D. Johnson 126 Psychology Building
Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory Scott Frey
Working Memory Laboratory

We conduct research on auditory and visual working memory and attention, in children and adults.

Nelson Cowan McAlester Hall Annex

Current Cognition and Neuroscience Psychology Faculty

Professor (Radiology, Neurology, and Psychology)
Assistant Research Professor
Curators' Distinguished Professor
18 McAlester Hall
Professor; Director, Cognitive Neuroscience Systems (CNS) Core Facility
Associate Professor
108 Psychology Building
Associate Professor
212E McAlester Hall
Director of Graduate & Undergraduate Studies and Associate Teaching Professor
212C McAlester Hall
106 McAlester Hall
105A McAlester Hall
Associate Professor
207 McAlester Hall