Eduardo Mercado III

My research has focused on understanding the neural and cognitive mechanisms that enable individuals to learn and improve basic cognitive skills such as recognizing and remembering actions, events, and percepts. I view cognition as a dynamic process that depends on the coordination of vast numbers of relatively simple neural circuits, many of which can be gradually reorganized to provide greater functionality. Research in the lab involves efforts to develop computational theories that instantiate such mechanisms; behavioral and neurophysiological experiments designed to test the predictions of these theories; and comparative studies to determine the generality of current theories.

Recently I have begun to focus on cortical plasticity in auditory spatial perception and am actively recruiting students to assist in studies of this topic.

Barbara Church

Ph.D., Psychology, Harvard University, 1995. I am a significant current contributor to the theoretical consideration of why and when progressive training leads to better auditory perceptual learning, when and why learning related shifts in auditory generalization occur, and the role of cross modal information in auditory perceptual discrimination. I am an author on more than half a dozen peer reviewed articles about perceptual learning, and continue to publish in this area. I have also contributed to our understanding of multiple systems/strategies of category learning, and how these differ across development, autism spectrum disorders, and species. I have been a driving force in the recent focus on trying to understand whether difficulties learning family resemblance categories might contribute to social deficits in children with high functioning autism.

  • Church, B.A., Mercado, E., III, Wisniewski, M. G., & Liu, E. H. (2013). Temporal dynamics in auditory perceptual learning: Impact of sequencing and incidental learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 270-276.
  • Church, B.A., Krauss, M. S., Lopata, C., Toomey, J. A., Thomeer, M. L., Coutinho, M. V., Volker, M. A., & Mercado, E., III (2010). Atypical categorization in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorder. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 862-868.

Itzel Orduña

Ph.D., Behavioral/Neural Sciences, Rutgers University, 2002. As a graduate student, my research interests spanned a wide range of topics in hippocampal processing and learning-induced cortical plasticity. My current interests focus on the role of neural plasticity in individual variations in resilience to adverse events during development. I am currently working to test new technologies for monitoring experience-dependent changes in the physiological states of children with fetal alcohol syndrome, and to measure how behavioral interventions can affect these states.

  • Orduña, I., Liu, E., H.-M., Church, B. A., Eddins, A. C., & Mercado, E., III. (2012). Evoked-potential changes following discrimination learning involving complex sounds. Clinical Neurophysiology, 123, 711-719.
  • Orduña, I., Mercado, E., III, Gluck, M.A, & Merzenich, M.M. (2005). Cortical responses predict perceptual sensitivities to complex sounds in rats. Behavioral Neuroscience, 119, 256-264.

Patchouly Banks

My research focuses on the perceptual and cognitive abilities of bottlenose dolphins. I am currently conducting studies of auditory search behavior by echolocating dolphins at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego, where I am also the Internship Coordinator for the Navy Marine Mammal Program's Animal Care and Training Internship. I also have been involved in field studies of singing humpback whales in Puerto Rico, dynamic visual perception in California sea lions, shell switching behavior via chemical cues in hermit crabs, auditory discrimination in laboratory rats, and auditory distance perception in humans.

Courtney Rice

I'm currently conducting experimental studies of auditory perceptual learning in undergraduates that examine how different training regimens impact acquisition and generalization, and also have been involved in testing category learning by children with autism. These studies suggest that learning-related changes in stimulus representations underlie gradual improvements in perceptual sensitivities.

Grace Ong

I am a doctoral student in Cognitive Psychology in the NCP lab. I am interested in how cortical plasticity and cognitive skill learning can be used to ameliorate deficits in executive function, especially in adult populations. I am also investigating the mechanisms that may contribute to the benefits of trial spacing in auditory perceptual learning. I am highly interested in using neuroimaging techniques to investigate these areas of research. I am originally from Singapore, and graduated from the Nanyang Technological University.

Brittany McIntosh

My research in the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior program focused on using neural networks to classify dolphin whistles according to whether they were produced by males or females, or based on whether the whistling dolphin was young or old. I'm generally interested in how marine mammals use sound to mediate social interactions. As a student in the evolution, ecology, and behavior program (EEB), I was also able to explore my interests in animal behavior, comparative cognition of mammals as it relates to evolution, and animal conservation.

Kelsie Norek

I am interested in assessing cognitive capacity and plasticity in dogs. I have focused on quantifying individual differences in cognitive abilities across dogs using spatial, memory, and problem-solving tasks. Broadly speaking, the goals of my research are to better understand the extent to which individuals within a species vary cognitively and to investigate factors that may contribute to cognitive variability.

Holly Truong

The studies that I've been pursuing in the NCP lab relate to visuospatial working memory and how capacity might be affected by past experience as well as the spatial regularity of inputs. I'm interested in how cognitive skills vary across undergraduates and ways of quantifying such differences.

Jennifer Schneider

Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior, University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2010. Currently: Assistant Professor of Psychology at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania. My research explores how animals sense, perceive, and interact with their environments, particularly in situations involving conspecifics. My research projects have included elements of acoustic communication, contextual/behavioral analysis, auditory perception, learning and memory processes, and computational modeling of neural systems. My work in the NCP lab included exploration of the information content of humpback whale song, including individual identification cues and localization cues indicating distance and direction of a singer. I am currently working on a project investigating how Black Sea dolphins use visual and auditory information to explore novel objects.

  • Schneider, J. N., Lloyd, D. R., Banks, P. N., Mercado, E, III. (2014). Modeling the utility of binaural cues for underwater sound localization. Hearing Research, 312, 103-113.
  • Mercado, E., III, Schneider, J.N., Pack, A.A., & Herman, L.M. (2010). Sound production by singing humpback whales. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 127, 2678-2691.

Estella Liu

Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology, University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2012. Much of my research has focused on the effects of different training conditions on learning and generalization. I have been particularly interested in how EEG/ERP measures are related to changes in perceptual sensitivities, and have pursued several studies on this topic as part of the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center. I also have conducted experiments looking at the effects of crossmodal cues on perceptual learning.

  • Liu, E., H.-M., Mercado, E., III., & Church, B.A. (2011). Multidimensional processing of dynamic sounds: More than meets the ear. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 73, 2624-2638.
  • Liu, E., H.-M., Mercado, E., III., Church, B.A., & Orduña, I. (2008). The easy-to-hard effect in human (Homo sapiens) and rat (Rattus norvegicus) auditory identification. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 122, 132-145.

Alexander Dovgopoly

M.A., Psychology (Cognitive). University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2012. My research focused on using computational methods to model atypical perceptual learning characteristics of individuals with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD). Informed by contemporary theoretical frameworks of ASD perceptual learning, I used neural networks to simulate the performance profiles of people with HFASD on perceptual learning tasks, modifying network parameters to induce atypical performance. Inferences about the potential causes of atypical performance by individuals with HFASD were made in accordance with which network parameters were modified. Cluster analyses suggested variability in HFASD performance profiles, with some participants demonstrating perceptual learning comparable to typically-developing individuals, and others performing at a diminished level. These findings may hint at a partial explanation for why some perceptual learning studies find atypical performance by participants with HFASD, while others find performance profiles that are comparable to typically-developing individuals.

  • Dovgopoly A., Mercado E., III (2013). A connectionist model of category learning by individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 13, 371-389.

Matthew Wisniewski

Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology, University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2013. My research combines behavioral, neurophysiological, and computational approaches toward understanding how learning is impacted by various training conditions. I have focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying classic learning phenomena such as the peak shift effect and the easy-to-hard effect. I have also used advanced signal processing approaches to disentangle the cortical mechanisms of perceptual learning using high density EEG recordings in collaboration with Scott Makeig's laboratory within the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center, and in my current postdoctoral position at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

  • Wisniewski, M. G., Mercado, E., III, Gramann, K., & Makeig, S. (2012). Familiarity with speech affects cortical processing of auditory distance cues and increases acuity. PLoS One, 7, e41025.
  • Wisniewski, M. G., Church, B.A., & Mercado, E., III (2010). Temporal dynamics of generalization and representational distortion. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 809-814.

Milen Radell

Ph.D., Behavioral Neuroscience, University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2013. I have been heavily involved in the development of computational neuroscience models of learning, including a circuit-level model of cerebellar processing in conditioning and connectionist models of auditory perceptual learning. The goals of these simulations are to advance theoretical understanding of the neural mechanisms of learning and generalization, and to generate precise, testable hypotheses that can be used to evaluate the predictive utility of current psychological and neuroscientific theories.

  • Radell, M. L., & Mercado, E., III (2014). Modeling possible effects of atypical cerebellar processing on eyeblink conditioning in autism. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience. doi: 10.3758/s13415-014-0263-1
  • Wisniewski, M. G., Radell, M. L., Guillette, L. M., Sturdy, C. B., & Mercado, E., III (2012). Predicting shifts in generalization gradients with perceptrons. Learning & Behavior, 40, 128-144.