Current Research


Current Research at Carnegie Mellon University

August 2016-present

Advisors: Dr. Anna Fisher & Dr. Erik Thiessen

Cognitive Development Lab

Infant Language and Learning Lab

Exergame Study:

Exergames are a generation of video games that stimulate cognitive and motor functions simultaneously. This study examines the separate and combined effects of exercise and cognitive stimulation on children’s executive function (EF) and associated neural substrates. Children participate in an Exergame (exercise + cognitive activity), Exercise (physical activity), Sedentary (cognitive activity), or Control (no-play) Condition. Resting-state prefrontal cortex connectivity utilizing fNIRS, behavioral assessments of EF, and teacher ratings of EF are assessed pre- and posttest. This study elucidates the neural mechanisms underlying changes in EF induced from exergame play.

Transformed a widely-utilized cognitive (Flanker Task) into an Immersive Exergame
Exergame in Action
Control Conditions

The Longitudinal Noninvasive NeuroImaging Study:

This study is a longitudinal, microgenetic study that monitors changes in resting-state prefrontal cortex functional connectivity and executive function abilities of 4- to 5-year-old over multiple time points to investigate the development of executive function skills, resting-state prefrontal cortex functional connectivity, and the association between neural development and executive function development within the same group of children over time. A replication experiment with adults serves to validate the resting-state functional connectivity measure (Inscapes) utilizing a neuroimaging modality outside of fMRI.

fNIRS is a neuroimaging technique that uses low-levels of light to measure changes in cerebral blood volume and oxygenation
fNIRS is ideal for neuroimaging studies with youth because it is noninvasive and does not require participants to remain relatively immobile.

The Virtual Reality Neuroplasticity Study:

This study examines the effects of immersive virtual experiences on cognition and neuroplasticity in low-income youth by experimentally modifying versions of a popular commercially-available virtual reality game: Beat Saber, with meticulous manipulations to the amount of physical activity and cognitive demands.

VR Immersion with Children
VR Immersion with Adolescents to examine changes in brain and cognitive development across ages

The Reading Study:

This study examines the impact of varying visual presentations in educational e-books on first and second graders’ developing reading skills and utilizing eye-tracking technology to extract eye gaze patterns and investigate the attention allocation of beginning readers. This study provides theoretical insights about design principles for reading materials that can be employed to optimize educational materials and promote literacy development in young children.

Using eye-tracking technology to examine whether extraneous illustrations (entertaining, but nonessential features to comprehend the story)–a design common in beginning reader storybooks–promote attentional competition and hinder reading comprehension in beginning readers.
Example of eye-gaze patterns



The Interactive iPad Study

This study investigated how to instill the practices of high quality adult-child interactions in interactive digital technologies to improve learning outcomes.

Featured in Carnegie Mellon University's News Highlights and in The National Science Foundation (NSF) News

Features in digital books modeled from quality adult-child interactions improve childrens learning in young children.