Methods and Equipment
Pavlovian conditioning is a choice paradigm to study a diverse set of behaviors and biological processes. In psychology, the century old finding that learned responses can be elicited by previously neutral stimuli serves as the foundation for an increasing number of influential theories of learning, emotion, memory, decision making, and social psychology. In neuroscience, it serves as the basic infrastructure for controlled neurobiological investigations of learning and memory at the molecular, cellular, and systems level. In psychiatry, it is increasingly relied upon as a model to investigate and potentially treat a host of mental health disorders. We incorporate the principles of conditioning into much of our work on learning, memory, and control of unwanted behaviors and negative emotional memories.
Pavlovian fear-conditioning machine. Featured in NYT 2015 article.
We currently use two large testing rooms on the fourth floor of the Health Discovery Building. Each testing room has a set of Biopac MP160 GSR and PPG modules as well as a shock box used for stress and fear conditioning. Most experiments are run on either E-Prime, Matlab, or Psychopy.
We currently use the fMRI scanner at the Imaging Research Center (IRC) in the Norman Hackerman Building of UT Austin, but soon we will run participants in the Imaging Research Center (yes, we know, they confusingly have the same name) on the first floor of the Health Discovery Building.
Inside the IRC scanner room.
We conduct a variety of behavioral and physiological experiments in virtual reality with an Oculus Rift headset. Our environments are programmed in Unity software.
An example of a conditioning chamber in virtual reality, arial view.
Inside the chamber with a presented stimulus of an anteater.
Preparing fMRI data for NDA submission.
I/O integration in Unity (VR software/hardware communication).