NeuroPsychometric Research Lab


FMRI Scans

How much brain power do you use when you perform a task? That’s what Dr. Bart Rypma is trying to understand in his research at the UT Dallas Center for Brain Health, and the answer has important implications for healthy aging. In studying how much neural activity our short-term memory requires to carry out the business of our days, Dr. Rypma has learned that less is more.

“People typically think that in neural activity, more means better,” he says. “But it may be more accurate to think in terms of efficiency—whether the brain is doing more work cognitively with fewer neural resources.”

It seems that as we get older, we require more neural activity in the prefrontal cortex than younger people to perform cognitive tasks. Now the question is — “why?” Dr. Rypma recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the physiological bases of age-related changes in short-term memory.

“I hope my work helps in the development of therapies that target specific neural systems and vascular systems to improve the quality of life of older adults,” he explains.

We are currently working on several studies.

Neurocognitive Aging — Brain-aging theories are based on age-differences in blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal (BOLD) as measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). New evidence from biomedical engineering research suggests that changes in BOLD signal result from physiologic, neural, and cognitive factors that complicate interpretation of this signal simply as an index of age-related neural change. With more extensive study of these factors, and their relationships to behavior, we aim to elucidate the mechanisms of neural and vascular changes with age, and their effects on cognitive performance.

Working Memory — Working memory is a cognitive ability that allows information to be kept in highly accessible mental state. Our laboratory studies how this ability changes with age and disease, as well as the underlying neural mechanisms that give rise to these changes.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) — comprehensive investigation of the neural basis for Multiple Sclerosis by using neuroimaging and behavorial techniques to characterize the structural, functional and behavioral changes of the disease.

Gulf War Illness (GWI) — investigation of the neural bases of cognitive impairment due to GWI

Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience — behavioral and fMRI studies of auditory perception and memory, with a focus on speech and music, in normal human cognition. Topics include auditory memory distortion, priming of musical sounds, recognition of speech and music, and working memory for mainstream and underground music.

Contemplative Neuroscience — understanding the neural basis of affect, the role of the cognitive processes embodied in the concept of mindfulness, and their roles in emotion expression and regulation. We study the change in cognitive function brought about by mood manipulation and observe the effects of mindfulness meditation on resisting the transient cognitive decline caused by negative mood induction. Results from this study could guide the development of interventions in addressing depressive disorders.