DeLTA Center Interdisciplinary Research Grants Awarded

Feb 24, 2020

The DeLTA Center has selected two grants for funding through the DeLTA Center Interdisciplinary Research Grant program. The projects chosen are each receiving a grant for $1000.

Congratulations to Larissa Jordan and Carrie Hazmeier on being awarded this funding!

Proposal title: The Automaticity of Semantic Organization in Individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment 

Project coordinator: Larissa Jordan

Abstract: The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a progressive and terminal kind of dementia, continues to rise with an estimated 14 million Americans affected by 2050. Prior to an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, many individuals are diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and have similar, but fess severe, symptoms as those with Alzheimer's disease. A common occurrence in even the early stages of Alzheimer's disease is word finding deficits, which significantly impact effective communication. Semantic priming studies have shown that word finding deficits may partly be due to limitations in the automaticity of semantic retrieval.
It is unknown if the automaticity of semantic retrieval underlies word finding difficulties in individuals with MCI or if the deficit in semantic retrieval occurs later in the Alzheimer's disease continuum. The current study uses semantic priming to examine the extent to which semantic retrieval is automatic in individuals with MCI. From a theoretical perspective, findings from this research will inform models of semantic memory organization. From an applied perspective, determining when semantic memory retrieval becomes impaired in individuals with MCI can provide critical information to improve early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Proposal title: Neural correlates for successful spatial problem solving in chemistry education: A comparison between gesture-based and model-based learning strategies  

Project coordinator: Carrie Hazmeier

Abstract: Molecules undergo spatial transfo1mations. Chemists must learn to recognize these spatial transformations because chemical structure predicts chemical reactivity. In chemical education, low spatial ability in segments of the student population explain p01iions of the discipline's failure and attrition rates. But students also develop verbal strategies during chemistry instruction. Moreover, chemistry involves both internal (e.g. mental rotation) and external spatial representation (e.g. plastic models). Thus, students must learn to coordinate internal and external representations. Gesture-based instruction suppo1is this coordination by embodying chemical connectivity and maintaining spatial relations. Gestured instruction protects students against the declines in accuracy that occur when they lack external representations. Arguments that centralize spatial ability's role in chemistry achievement do not account for the role that gesture plays in chemistry learning. This gap in knowledge motivates new methods that characterize the spatial cognition that mediates learning with gesture and associates with accurate spatial problem solving in chemistry. We therefore aim to identify whether visual areas get recruited relatively more than verbal areas during problem solving after students receive gestured or model-based instruction. This investigation will "scale-down" applied findings to basic research as called for by leading scholars in the learning sciences.