Current Research
January 15, 2013

Seth Pollak, PhD
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Laboratory Facilities


The Child Emotion Research Laboratory is based at the Waisman Center on the main campus of the University of Wisconsin, adjacent to the University Hospital and the Health Sciences Learning Center.

Our laboratory is on the third floor of the Waisman Center. The laboratory is easily accessible for parents, and the Waisman Center provides reserved parking spaces in front of the building for research participants and their families. Our lab consists of a comfortable waiting room for parents, adolescents, and young children, numerous staff and student offices, psychophysiology suites, behavioral testing rooms, a large data analysis bay, and parent/child interview rooms. Laboratory rooms are designed especially for use with both young children and adolescents. All testing rooms are equipped with adjustable furniture with rounded corners; safety covers are placed on all electrical outlets.

The laboratory is equipped with both iMACs and PCs. Data from lab computers is backed up on a daily basis and also automatically stored at a secure, off-campus location. We use NeuroScan software for EEG/ERP data collection as well as an extensive battery of stimulus display and analysis software written in-house. The Psychology Lab testing rooms contain state-of-the-art stimulus presentation, data recording, and laboratory control instrumentation system. Two Neuroscan SynaAmps2 high density EEG amplifier have 128 channels for electrophysiological recording. This system is also capable of low-noise amplification, 24-bit analog-to-digital conversion, and digital filtering, allowing continuous data acquisition up to a sampling rate of 20,000 Hz per channel. A second NeuroScan workstation allows for editing, signal processing, and source localization of psychophysiological data. The data collection and control room is interfaced with the subject rooms for audio, video, electrophysiology, stimulus control, and subject response signals.

TesterThe UW Psychology Department has many faculty conducting psychophysiological research. Thus, the department commands extensive human resources to support state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. Specifically, the Department employs four full-time, in-house electrical, mechanical, and software engineers.

The Waisman Center is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge about human development and developmental disabilities throughout the lifespan. The center is one of 9 national centers that encompasses a Mental Retardation Developmental Disabilities Research Center and a Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. The Waisman Center is a 198,000 square-foot complex located in the west area of the UW-Madison campus. The center encompasses an eight-floor tower, a one-story annex, and a seven-story addition completed in 2001. Housed in this complex are 60 laboratories for basic and clinical biomedical and behavioral research, a brain imaging center, a clinical bio-manufacturing facility, seven specialty clinics for people with developmental disabilities and their families, numerous early intervention and outreach programs, and a school for children from birth through age six, serving typically developing children and children with disabilities. Fifty faculty representing 26 academic departments of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 300 staff, and more than 250 graduate and post-graduate students work at the Waisman Center. Research activities at the Center includes investigations of how the nervous system develops, brain-behavior relationships through neuroimaging, the development of speech, language, and communication, the development of sensory and perceptual processes in children, new technologies in gene therapy, and basic biological research on stem cells. The center operates an integrated neuroimaging facility that includes a high field strength MRI scanner and a PET scanner, both supported by full-time expert staff. This unique facility allows center researchers to use the latest imaging techniques to learn about the structure of the brain, with particular emphasis on the neural bases of emotion, attention, language, and other cognitive functions. The Waisman Center provides clinical care through clinics that are operated in collaboration with UW Hospital and Clinics and several UW-Madison Departments. Professionals from many disciplines combine knowledge in the following areas: audiology, biochemical and clinical genetics, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, orthopedics, pediatrics, pediatric neurology, pediatric rehabilitation, physical therapy, psychology, social work, and speech and language. The Waisman Center has a Core Grant from NICHD that supplements core services in several areas including computing, instrumentation, human subject recruiting, and computer graphic/printing services.

We also collaborate with scientists at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WPRC) which is based in the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The WPRC is one of eight federally supported (NIH-NCRR) National Primate Research Centers and the only one in the Midwest. More than 250 center scientists, through competitive grants, conduct research in primate biology with relevance to human and animal health. The WPRC assists us through the Assay Services Unit of the WPRC, which provides up-to-date, efficient and cost-effective hormone measurements in a centralized facility for the Primate Center's core staff, affiliated scientists and collaborators. An additional part of Assay Services' mission involves continuing developments of new methodology and techniques to meet the progressive research requirements of investigators. These developments include non-invasive, non-isotopic assays.

Our neuroimaging studies are also conducted within the Waisman Center building at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. The Imaging Laboratory is based on the first and second floors of the new addition to the Waisman Center. It houses a new tandem accelerator (NEC deuteron accelerator) for the production of short half-life tracers (e.g., O15) for PET, the GE ADVANCE PET system, a new 3T MR scanner for functional MRI dedicated fully to research, along with associated radiochemistry labs a new simulator room, image processing areas, conference rooms and office space. The computer servers are located in an air conditioned electronics room and are connected to an expandable 4 kVA APC Symmetra uniterruptible power supply. Child in scannerThe scanner, 3 Tesla GE SIGNA MRI,has advanced imaging gradients with a maximum amplitude of 40 mT/m and a slew rate of 150 mT/m msec. The ability to develop custom pulse sequences for the scanner is provided by GE using a software development package - EPIC. Both structural and functional brain imaging are done using a quadrature birdcage coil supplied by GE. A new birdcage coil with roughly 20-30% improved sensitivity over the GE head coil was delivered by Medical Advances. We also have a localized gradient / RF coil. This new coil will have a minimum of 50 mT/m gradients with 500 mT/m/msec slew rates. Visual stimulation can be delivered by either an advanced fiber optic goggle system (Avotec) interfaced with an eye-tracking system (sampling rate of 50Hz) or using back-projection with an LCD projector and a screen at the end of the table. Auditory stimuli are presented using a pneumatic headphone system (Avotec). The scanner is supported by full-time physicists, nuclear physics postdocs, and research support staff.

To accommodate children to the unique environment of the MRI scanner, the lab houses a simulator room. This room has a mock MRI scanner, another Avotec fiber optic goggle system, and an auditory system with two control computers. This room is used to introduce subjects to the identical experimental procedures that they will experience in the actual scanner to ensure subject comfort and data quality.