Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Research interests & goals:
Jessica Cohen is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a member of the Cognitive Psychology program and the Human Neuroimaging Group. She is also affiliated with the Biomedical Research Imaging Center, the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, and the Neurobiology Curriculum. Jessica received her A.B. in Psychology from Harvard University, her Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA, and postdoctoral training in Neuroscience at both UC Berkeley and Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The Cohen Lab investigates how distinct brain networks interact and reconfigure when confronted with changing contexts, and how this neural flexibility contributes to flexibility in control and the ability to learn. Moreover, we seek to understand the consequences of dysfunction in this flexibility. To achieve our research goals, we utilize functional neuroimaging to characterize network integration and neural flexibility in a range of contexts, such as changing cognitive demands, transformations across typical development, and disruptions in healthy functioning due to disease. We apply cutting edge multivariate methods from neuroscience, psychology, and mathematics, such as functional and resting state connectivity, graph theory, machine learning, and computational modeling. These methods enable the quantification of rapid, dynamic changes across the entire brain simultaneously, as well as the ability to specify the roles of individual regions or functional connections. We apply these powerful methodological tools to multiple populations, such as healthy young adults, typically developing children, and patients. With this research strategy, we have elucidated important aspects of human cognition, development, and disease, such as how people can maintain focus while ignoring irrelevant events, why adolescents are particularly predisposed to risk-seeking, and what mechanisms of dysfunction underlie impulsive behavior in disorders such as ADHD. The ultimate goal of The Cohen Lab is to illuminate the neural mechanisms underlying both successful and dysfunctional behavioral flexibility, learning, and control.