Arithmetical Training; Working Memory; Reading

"I enjoyed running the subjects; it is the first time I have had a one on one experience like this with a subject in an experiment and I believe that it is a wonderful foundation for working with more difficult (i.e. clinical patients) in future research.  It is also nice to have the personal contact and not sit at a computer only doing data entry."

Supervising Faculty:  Julie Fiez, Ph.D.

Contact: Corrine Durisko, 412-624-7475,

Area of Research:  Cognitive

Description of Research: We have three active research projects. Each of these projects involves measurements of subject behavior and neuroimaging. The first is a study focused on arithmetical training. This study addresses two primary questions. First, what do we know about the brain structures that support mathematical reasoning, and how can this knowledge be linked to prior cognitive science research and standards for mathematics education? Second, what do we know about the brain systems that support learning, and how can this knowledge be used to help students achieve the instructional objectives associated with mathematics?

The overarching goal of the second active research project is to understand the cognitive processes associated with working memory in terms of neural substrates. We hope to shed light on the involvement of areas such as left temporoparietal cortex and the cerebellum in working memory. Longer term, the answers we find may also have important implications for understanding the neural mechanisms involved in speech and language processing and a variety of clinical disorders.

The third research project area aims to determine whether the right fusiform can provide an alternative route into the language system. The answer will shed light on the ongoing debate about the nature of the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) and the impact of perceptual analysis upon phonological coding during reading. Longer term, the answer may also have important clinical implications: if the right fusiform can support reading independently from the left fusiform (i.e., VWFA), then it may be possible to design new approaches to the treatment of individuals with acquired or developmental dysfunction of the VWFA.


  • 12 credits of Psychology (including current term)
  • STAT 0200/1000/1100 Statistics
  • PSY 0036 Research Methods Lecture
  • PSY 0037 Research Methods Lab
  • 3.5 or higher GPA
  • PSY 0422 recommended
  • Familiarity with Excel and statistics software useful but not required
  • Familiarity with Unix and Macintosh operating systems useful but not required

Terms offered: fall, spring and summer

Number of Students: 1 or 2