At this time the preliminary trials were conducted to determine whether or not there was a response to the spiders in our videos.

Utilizing the biopac system to measure skin conductance and heart rate, we are still in the works about analyzing the data and where to go from there.

Over break we are going to establish the proper approach to take and begin with participants in randomly assigned groups next semester

Diagnostic Assessment and Mathematical difficulties: An Experimental Study of Dyscalculia. By, Rababah, A. and Alghazo, Y.

Article Citation


Piazza, M. et al. (2010) Developmental Trajectory of Number Acuity Reveals a Severe Impairment in Developmental Dyscalculia. Cognition, 33-41.


Rababah, A. and Alghazo, Y. (2016) Diagnostic Assessment and Mathematical difficulties: An Experimental Study of Dyscalculia. Open Jounral of Social Science, 4, 45-52.



Brief Summary


In this study conducted by Manuela Piazza et al, they were trying to determine what deficits result from dyscalculia, specifically. They were under the impression that the acquisition of knowledge of numbers was disrupted, linked with this “number sense” that children/adults should gain with age. The number sense refers to the ability to perceive and discriminate large numerosities (Piazza et al., 2010). They utilized a psychophysical test to measure this number sense, which they then referred to as numerical acuity. The participants tested in this study included non-dyscalculic kindergarteners, school-age children, and adults. They divided the groups into a control group (non-dyscalculics) and one experimental group, which consisted of dyscalculic school-aged children. In the experimental task, it was a non-symbolic numerosity task, which consisted of participants that were presented with two white circles, which contained a different number of dots in each, but varied in terms of size, spacing and quantity. In the first circle, n1, the dots were larger and more spread out and in the second circle, the dots were smaller and grouped more together. The participants had to chose, without counting, the larger amount of dots presented over a white circle. The participants in the experimental group selected n2, which had the smaller dots more clustered together and the control group selected n1, which had larger and more dots spaced more apart (which is the correct answer).


Critical Analysis

·      I found this article to be interesting because it clearly shows the inability for dyscalculic children to differentiate between numerosities.

·      I thought that the use of more specific inclusion criteria such as general intelligence, normal schooling, no ADHD and other criteria allowed for a more controlled sample. This helped reduce any biases or skews in data.

·      The researchers kept referring to the control as “normally developing,” which I wasn’t to fond of. Why didn’t they continue to refer to them as non-dyscalculic? Are they saying that dyscalculic people aren’t normal? What truly defines normal, the stereotypical person who doesn’t have any disorders, deficits or disabilities—because I find that improper and nonexistent?

·       I appreciated how the researchers accounted for comorbidities in this study, as opposed to the last article I read by Ahmad Rababah & Yazan Alghazo, which did not consider that (2016).

·      Although the researchers mentioned they screened out for ADHD, how exactly did they do that? What tasks or tests did they utilize to assure that the participants did not have this disorder?

·      Why did they have a control group of kindergarteners, school-aged children and adults, but only had an experimental group of dyscalculic school-aged children?

·      It would have been nice to see some type of fMRI used to study activated brain regions in this area. This would allow more support for why those with dyscalculia have a more difficult time with numerosities and may help use see whether or not numerosity can be localized (although that might be a bit much for one study).

·      In terms of using this article in my grant proposal, it may help with my literature review because it provides background on the disorder itself—which is important in explaining. This article may also be useful and helping me determine the specific types of groups and/or tasks I may consider using.

Emotional Memory and Learning with Virtual Reality

About this Study:

A sensory preconditioning paradigm was used in this study to examine the concept of ‘linked’ emotional memories. In sensory preconditioning paradigms, a unconditioned stimulus (CS1) is first paired with an additional (different) unconditioned stimulus (CS2) , neither of which should produce a conditioned response in themselves. Following this initial stage, the unconditioned stimulus (US) is presented with one of the conditioned stimuli to produce a conditioned response (e.g. Rizley & Rescorla, 1972). This conditioned response (CR) will then be produced by both of the preconditioned sensory stimuli, creating a second order linkage between the two conditioned stimuli. The current study aims to examine both the efficacy of a sensory preconditioning paradigm on creating a new fear conditioning pairing and the ability to extinct a fear response using a sensory preconditioning paradigm

Participants in the current study watched a prepared video, which shows paired presentations of both red and yellow still screens (the CS1 and CS2 respectively). Following this, either the CS1 or the CS2 was paired with the US (a video showing spiders designed to elicit a fear response). After this, both colors were shown one at a time in order to assess the physiological response to the CS1 and CS2. If sensory preconditioning was successful, both stimuli presentations resulted in heightened skin conductance. After this, extinction to either the CS1 or the CS2 was undergone by repeatedly presenting the color with no reinforcement. Testing was then undergone again to assess the efficacy of extinction on both the CS1 and CS2. If the sensory preconditioning was successful, then there is expected to be a lessened physiological response to the CS1 and CS2, implying that sensory preconditioning allows for indirect (to one preconditioned stimulus) fear extinction.


Brain correlates of memory reconsolidation: A role for the TPJ. By Simon, et al

Article Citation 

Simon, K et al., Brain correlates of memory reconsolidation: a role for the TPJ. (2017). Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 154-161.

Brief Summary 

In this study, researchers were determining whether new experiences can update older memories. They studied the effects of prediction error and how when prediction error is high, leads to new and separate memories to be formed. They stressed the importance of the temporal parietal junction, TPJ, in prediction error. When the TPJ is activated they find that activation predicts a new memory formation. Participants enrolled in a 48-hour study which consisted of a learning phase, followed by a memory reactivation phase and new learning phase.

Critical Analysis

  • When objects and sounds were being presented, what if the participant already had a different personal association with a certain sound. How could that have affected the results?
  • How did researchers determine if they truly reactivated the original learned memory?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria could have been used in this study? Why was there such a small sample size (n=14)? Also, 3 participants fell asleep which is a good portion of the 14… could the task be manipulated in anyway to prevent this from happening in future studies?

Determinants to trigger memory reconsolidation: The role of retrieval and updating information. By, Carlos J. Rodriguez-Ortiza & Federico Bermúdez-Rattoni

Article Citation:

Rodriguez-Ortiza, C & Bermudez-Rattoni, F.  Determinants to trigger memory reconsolidation: The role of retrieval and updating information. (2017). Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.  4-12.

Brief Summary:

In this study, the researchers were testing the effects of memories and their ability to be updated. They discuss the implications for successful recall and how long-term memories need to be properly retrieved in order to become labile. They hypothesized that reconsolidation of a memory is only initiated when updating information is acquired.

Critical Analysis:

  • The researchers mention that reconsolidation is time-dependent, but what is the window of lability? How can they determine this exact window? Will it differ per person based on other variables?
  • If updating information is the important part for reconsolidation, why do many studies stress “retrieval?” Does retrieval imply “updating? “

End of Semester Goals

  • Work on ways to analyze data collected from Sensory Pre-conditioning study
  • Continue to read primary literature on ways to manipulate memory
  • Determine lab goals for Spring 2017
  • Remain an active member of the lab

Degrading emotional memories induced by a virtual reality paradigm. By, Cuperus et al.


Cuperus, A, et al. Degrading emotional memories induced by a virtual reality paradigm. Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. (2016). 45-50. 

Brief Summary

In this study Anne Cuperus et al was studying the effects of auditory cues with or without concurrent visuospatial task in experiment 1. They were testing to see whether or not the visuospatial task lead to a degradation in emotional memory. In experiment 2, they had their participants recall negative emotional memories which was induced by the VR paradigm and studied the vividness and emotionality of them .

Critical Analysis

  • I found it interesting how they only used males in this study. Why not females?
  • Why was it that the task only led to reduction in emotionality and not vividness? Would reducing ones vividness of a memory be ethical? Isn’t that almost like erasing their memory?
  • It was interesting that this task had 20 practice trials? What if the participants were to respond less/more because of this?
  • I appreciated how participants were offered a mindfulness session post experiment to make sure there was no anxiety or other feelings that arise.
  • Is this an ethical study? Inducing negative memories via a VR paradigm?
  • Fig. 2 is interesting because we can clearly see the effects of Recall+ DT verses Recall no DT and the changes in vividness and emotionality.

Beginning of Semester Goals

  • Goals for this semester
    • Get IRB for Sensory Pre-Conditioning Human Study passed
    • Begin collecting data for this study
    • Help other co-lab partners with their studies (i.e collecting data)
    • Remain an active member of the rat lab when it begins in the spring
    • Remain engaged in the article discussions
    • Edit the Caines Arcade Manuscript

Propranolol for the treatment of anxiety disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis. By, Steenen et al

Article Citation 

Steenen, S, et al. Propranolol for the treatment of anxiety disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychopharmacology. (2016). 128-139

Brief Summary

In this study by Steenen et al, they are conducting a study where they review and analyze the efficacy of oral propranolol studies. They have a certain criteria for which studies will be included, which limits them to about 8 included in this paper. They are trying to assess whether or not propranolol is successful in attenuating fear memories.

Critical Analysis 

  • I found it interesting how SSRIs are compared to propranolol in this article (Steenen et al., 2016).  When talking about an anxiety disorder, SSRI don’t really do much to attenuate the memory, but rather boost mood by increasing levels of serotonin. Why are these two drugs compared? Isn’t the purpose of propranolol to alleviate the aversiveness associated with a memory?
  • Why were these studies with propranolol not designed well (2016)? If that’s the case, then how do we know what the intended effects or propranolol are? The researchers in this study noted that there was no difference between propranolol and benzodiazepines on anxiety frequency (2016). Could it be possible that propranolol is specific to helping those with traumatic flashbacks, like PTSD?
  • After reading this, I am wondering what exactly does propranolol do? If there is so much conflicting data on the efficacy and mechanistic detail behind the effects of propranolol, why use it? Why can’t these researchers just replicate one of the studies that was not controlled well and control for the confounding variables?
  • I found it interesting how the researchers concluded with the notion that propranolol’s lack of evidence should be the reason why it isn’t used in anxiety disorders (2016). That brings me back to my reason that this drug may be more useful in stress disorders like PTSD. Further testing needs to be done.