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Arianna Thoksakis

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Arianna is primarily interested cognitive neuroscience. More specifically, she is interested in how perceptual processes can influence human behavior.

TEACHING INTERESTS & FUTURE GOALS

Perception is a broad and exciting area of cognitive science. Our lives are shaped through perception and the biological processes underlying perception. Arianna would like to help students explore these interesting concepts by eventually teaching courses on perception, neuroscience, and biological psychology.

This year, Arianna hopes to collect data for her experiments, successfully defend her Master’s thesis, and apply to PhD programs in Cognitive Neuroscience. In the future, she hopes to one day become a tenure-track academic researcher in a Cognitive Neuroscience program.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Color Saturation as an Element of Attention Capture in Emotional Images

Our world is perceived almost entirely in color. It is a vital part of our lives and has secured a prominent place in many individual’s lives through fashion, art, and consumerism. Previous research has thoroughly examined the effects of color on emotions and the brain. However, it is not entirely clear how these effects translate to behavior, nor is it clear as to what exactly counts as emotional information. It has been demonstrated that the color red works well as an element of attention capture in an emotional context, so this study examines exactly how different levels of color saturation can affect attention capture in a dot-probe task.

 

Additionally, this study aims to examine how these color effects translate to attention capture toward neutral images in a dot-probe task. In assigning different saturation levels of red to both emotionally arousing images and emotionally neutral images in a dot-probe task, a better understanding of color elements and their relationship to emotional arousal and attentional bias may be achieved. It is hypothesized that the use of highly saturated colored frames will enhance the emotional salience of images. It is further hypothesized that this will result in quicker response times and greater accuracy levels for target dots flashed in the visual field of an image with a highly saturated frame.

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Music as an Aggression Agent in Response to tDCS Brain Stimulation

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is an effective form of brain stimulation that can be used to temporarily alter neuronal activity in the brain. In using tDCS, a low electric current is sent through the skull and into the brain. This process can be used to improve or suppress a variety of functions within the brain including emotional regulation, memory, and learning.

  It has been heavily debated as to whether or not heavy metal music is a cause of aggressive behaviors in listeners. Many previous studies state that heavy metal music increases behaviors such as aggression and risk taking, while others argue that there is no such effect. The current study involves an attempt to alleviate negative behaviors that are generally associated with heavy metal music through the use of tDCS. In administering anodal stimulation, it is expected that aggressive behaviors will be reduced. Consequently, it is expected that participants who receive no brain stimulation while listening to a selection of heavy metal songs will exhibit more risky behaviors and will be more aggressive in attempt to win the most points possible in a prisoner’s dilemma simulation.

  When stimulating the prefrontal cortex through tDCS, research has found a significant increase on prosocial behavior as well as a significant decrease in aggressive and risk-taking behaviors. With this in mind, it is expected that participants that are exposed to tDCS brain stimulation and heavy metal music will be significantly more agreeable in a prisoner’s dilemma simulation than those who partake in sham stimulation.