A rainbow of feathers floats upward like a psychedelic butterfly. Fingers of color, violet and lime green, seem to flow outward from the tips of the wings. If you didn’t know better, you might assume it is a work of art. Beyond their beauty, for Shawn Christ these images taken at MU’s new Brain Imaging Center reveal the brain’s activity and connections. In his role as Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of MU’s Clinical Neuropsychology Laboratory, Christ studies how the relationship between the brain and behavior changes as we develop. Christ chose a career in psychology because it would combine two passions— working with kids and solving puzzles.
How much do infants know about the world in which they live? At what age do humans begin to develop an understanding of object permanence and of the reality that people act in response to different things around them? These are the kinds of questions Yuyan Luo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, seeks to answer. In addition to teaching cognition development courses—from infancy to toddler—she runs the Infant Cognition Lab, which tests psychological and biological knowledge development through a series of lab experiments. Now in its second year of operation, the lab conducts experiments with participants as young as two and one-half months old.
Will describes a recent collaboration with a neurologist, in which they studied food intake during pregnancy and analyzed its affects on the later onset of autism in baby mice. Though the project initially seemed disconnected from his other initiatives, Will notes that collaborative work “gives you more inspiration for your own project.”
Shawn Christ studies the way the brain develops and the relationship between brain and behavior. “I really think that if you’re going to understand that, you can’t just study typical development,” he says. “You can’t just study what happens when everything goes right, you also have to study what happens when things go wrong.”
All of the subjects in Luo’s experiments are volunteered by their parents. Luo talks about research she hopes to pursue in her future work.