Carnegie Mellon University

National Institutes of Health

November 08, 2017

NIH Renews CMU, Pitt Predoctoral Training Program in Behavioral Brain Research

Increased Funding Will Support Eight Students Each Year Until 2022

By Shilo Rea

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has renewed B-squared, a predoctoral training program in behavioral and brain research. Offered through the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC)—joint through Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, B-squared trains students to incorporate neuroscience and behavioral research to advance the understanding and treatment of many health issues.

“B-squared is unique because it aims to provide graduate students the opportunity to do research at the interface of behavioral and brain sciences. They receive foundational training in neuroscience and behavioral research methods and perspectives through both coursework and laboratory-based research. We really emphasize creating opportunities for students to do cross-cutting research,” said Lori Holt, professor of psychology at CMU who co-directs B-squared with Pitt’s Julie Fiez.

The grant renewal, B-squared’s second since its inception in 2007, provides increased funding totaling more than $1.6 million to support eight students each year until 2022. To date, 39 CMU and Pitt Ph.D. students have received funding through the program.

Current CMU psychology graduate student Casey Roark is interested in ways to simplify learning challenges—like grasping the sounds of a new language—for listeners. Roark decided to attend Carnegie Mellon in part for the B-squared program.

“It let me know that CMU Psychology really valued behavioral research, neuroscience research and computational methods, which really fits into what I wanted to pursue with my research,” she said. “Even though I just started the B-squared program, it has allowed me to make plans for expanding my experimental research into the neuroscience field. I will gain training with EEG through a workshop in the spring and through other CNBC resources.

B-squared graduates have benefited from the program as well. Matthew Walsh studied under CMU’s John R. Anderson, the R.K. Mellon University Professor of Psychology and Computer Science, on using brain imaging to inform cognitive architecture. Walsh published 12 papers while a graduate student and is now working at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Cognitive Models and Agents Branch.

Currently an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, Luke Hyde’s dissertation was on antisocial behavior’s development and how genetics and the environment contribute to it. Hyde’s mentor at Pitt was Daniel Shaw. While a graduate student, he published 23 papers.

At CMU, the CNBC is administered by the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The CNBC integrates Pitt’s strengths in psychology and basic and clinical neuroscience with CMU’s strengths in psychology, computer science, biological sciences, engineering and statistics.