At Arkansas Tech University's Integrative Behavioral Neural Science (IBNS) laboratory you will find our dedicated team working to innovate in our studies. Investigate our current research below to see how the IBNS lab is developing new methods and striving for excellence.
Behaviors are a function of environment and physiological processes. Genes are just one factor of an individual that contribute to their behavior. We study variants of genes that influence the sensitivity to and availability of dopamine and responsiveness to oxytocin. Differences in availability and sensitivity to dopamine can drive an individual’s propensity toward risk taking behaviors. Additionally, differences in sensitivity to oxytocin can make an individual more empathetic and sociable.
By incorporating genotyping, behavioral tasks, and analyses of social networks, The IBNS lab is evaluating physiological and environmental factors that contribute to risk taking behaviors. For example, an individual who possesses a gene associated with sociability may be deeply embedded within their social network. Social networks have a profound effect on the behaviors of an individual because they tend to behave in similar ways of those they surround themselves with. Additionally, if an individual is predisposed to engage in risk taking behaviors, objective measures of risk taking can be implemented in the laboratory to determine frequency of risky decisions made.
Vagus Nerve Study
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is a non-pharmacological way to potentially treat numerous disorders such as depression and anxiety. VNS is thought to exert its effects by activating the Locus Coeruleus, the sole source of norepinephrine in the forebrain. Traditional VNS is invasive and requires a surgical implant. Transdermal Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) is a non-invasive method that could be used in the treatment of these disorders. tVNS is carried out by placing electrodes into the ear and delivering low levels of stimulation.
Currently, the lab has been validating tVNS parameters by comparing different measures such as salivary alpha amylase, heart rate variability, and changes in pupil diameter, to name a few. We plan to use tVNS in attentional studies.
Humans are social and exclusion from groups leads to increased stress and distress. We use a behavioral task (Cyberball) to manipulate the degree of inclusion/exclusion an individual experience while altering degree of autonomic arousal. Our studies have shown that increased arousal elevates social distress, depresses mood, and increases cortisol. We are preparing to begin studies investigating EEG effects of exclusion under varying levels of arousal.