I’m currently studying at Truman State University, which is in Kirksville, Missouri, majoring in neuroscience under the interdisciplinary studies department. The research I am currently conducting is through my summer R.E.U. (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) at Georgia State University, as well as Georgia Tech through Developmental Neuropsychology, and the lifespan lab at Georgia State.
The research project I’m working on is focused on identifying biological risk factors as well as comorbidities and social factors influencing PTSD in black populations in Atlanta, specifically for a part of the brain called the cingulum. This study utilizes a lot of neuroimaging; so we take MRI imaging to study the structural integrity of highways in the brain that link areas of visual memory to areas of emotional response, to observe how that can impact the severity of PTSD in a certain population. This research has proven to be very complex, but it’s also very far reaching in terms of its potential impact. We are building off of a previous study from about 10 years ago that used a different type of neuroimaging. Now we’re getting to look at this part of the brain from two different perspectives, and what we found is that this part of the brain, the cingulum, which we’re still learning so much about was relatively recently discovered compared to some other parts of the brain and has many different areas in it.
“Different [brain] areas may have different responses to trauma, and that can have very important implications for how this population responds to, and exhibits symptoms of PTSD. For example, the part of the cingulum that links visual memory to emotional response has higher structural integrity in the cingulum, which means those signals moving in between those two areas of the brain are essentially moving more efficiently.”
Whereas in other areas of the brain that control more complex functions such as executive functioning, those structural integrity tends to be decreased for all kinds of mental illnesses, which we’ve also seen in other areas of the cingulum. So it’s very interesting to get involved in a scientific project that’s so complex and so far reaching, as I’m just now learning how to conduct professional level scientific research in the lab. But it’s also been very rewarding and the mentorship has been very valuable as I navigate this project.