The CogMo Lab is part of the Kinesiology program at Washington State University. We study brain networks that underlie cognition and movement. We are interested in understanding how we learn motor skills and how our movements change throughout our lifespan, in health and disease. We are specifically interested in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is widespread in the brain. Dopamine is involved in learning, movement, and reward processes. A change in dopamine levels can cause disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, and underlies substance use disorders. To understand how changing levels of dopamine affect cognition and motor behavior throughout our lifespan, we combine behavioral and EEG techniques in different populations. Our research combines approaches from various disciplines, including Kinesiology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology, Computer Science, and Engineering.
Cognition powers activities of daily living, and includes process such as memory, attention, and executive function (i.e., the ability to plan, organize, solve problems, and make decisions). An impairment in cognitive processes is linked to a decrease in quality of life and affects relationships with others and independence. Due to these associations, cognitive impairment is an important public health concern.
Movement makes life possible. It is critical for interacting with people and the environment that are required for activities of daily living. Interactions between cognitive and motor processes underlie motor behavior. They allow us to learn motor skills, maintain motor skills, and become experts in movement.
We are interested in how brain activity changes when performing cognitive and motor tasks across the lifespan, in health and disease. Specifically, we are interested in the role of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is prevalent throughout the brain. Dopamine underlies cognitive processes, such as learning, reward, and habit-formation, and also modulates movement pathways. Dopamine also underlies the development of substance use disorders (i.e., an increase in dopamine throughout the brain occurs due to drug use) as well as movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease (i.e., a deficit of dopamine in the basal ganglia, a group of structures that are involved in motor learning and control). Dopamine levels also change as a result of aging. Thus, substance use and movement disorders and their interaction with aging can be studied as models of the effects of changing levels of dopamine on cognition and motor behavior.
We study a range of populations, including young adults, older adults, individuals who use cannabis, and patients with movement disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).
The multidisciplinary nature of our research utilizes a variety of techniques, including behavioral, neural, and computational approaches. We use electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive technique, to measure brain activity and understand how activity across brain regions changes with behavior. We also apply advanced computational techniques to large behavioral and EEG data sets to discover patterns of activity and associations between brain and behavior to understand how they are disrupted with aging and/or disease.