The central topic of my graduate research is the modeling of the neural mechanisms for deriving the basis of perception and action for human motor control. Using electroencephalography, kinematics, and functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques, I investigate how the perception of object affordance affects action selection and how the neural networks associated with motor control are influenced by the resulting feedback from action selection.

The questions I am asking as a Ph.D. student are: How do humans cognitively and perceptually interact with their environment and how can this interaction best be mediated through computational actuation, such as brain computer interfaces and assistive technologies? And, as communication occurs in structures that incorporate a network as part of their function and architecture, what information can be extracted about the networks of the brain by looking at the communications exhibited by the areas within them? I am specifically interested in how data collected from brain activity in areas associated with motor perception and action can be used for interfacing the human body with the environment and how this data can be applied through computational actuation to develop assistive technologies for the rehabilitation of amputee and stroke patient populations.

 The neural network mechanisms of the brain that are associated with movement planning and execution contain within them many different levels consisting of simpler units. I am particularly interested in understanding how brain networks give rise to complex adaptive behavior in perception and action in humans. I want to produce research dealing with this area of psychology because I see a benefit of this research to patient populations where mediation between the human body and the environment can improve the success of cognitive motor rehabilitation.

 The use of interactive communications, between living things and machines, was a common theme for my undergraduate and master’s studies. I was interested in how humans and external devices can be interfaced as the means to organize and activate information about an environment. Some questions I had asked during my undergraduate and master’s fine art studies were: How do complex behaviors emerge from simple networks and interfaces? And how do particular relationships within a network form and lead to certain behaviors?

 My studies in the fine arts gave me an opportunity to mature my creativity and to develop strong critical thinking skills. However, while my fine arts education had taught me how to turn ideas into functional projects, it lacked instruction on how to collect and analyze data and apply the results. The collection and analysis of project data is an important component for developing projects and studies as analysis results provide feedback to continually improve projects and refine research goals. I have found that neuroscience is able to provide me with better answers to my questions than the fine arts. Where the arts emphasized, to me, creating sensory experiences, the sciences can provide me the methods to analyze and formulate responses to experience and perhaps even answer questions I have about how and why humans experience the environment the way that we do.