Cassie Eng

Ph.D. Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University with a focus in Developmental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience
Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER) Training Fellow
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) Training Fellow

A Novel Interdisciplinary Approach

When I'm not conducting research, I'm a group fitness instructor for Les Mills, a program offered in 100 countries around the world. What differentiates this exercise program from others is that the routines are designed through scientifically-based research through collaboration with kinesiologists and exercise physiologists.

Cassie as a fitness instructor

Recent research has converged on an intriguing finding: exercise through interaction with a virtual environment improves cognitive skills that are particularly important for academic achievement and success.

School time dedicated to recess has dwindled and few children receive the recommended amount of physical activity. Technology use is prevalent in almost every aspect of K-12 education, and on average, children ages 2- to 4-years old play digital games for 21 minutes daily. As the use of digital games in young childhood vastly increases, effective interventions for fostering cognitive skills raise great interest. Exergames are a generation of widely availble video games that promote both cognitive and motor stimulation. Exergames can easily be implemented in everyday lifestyles and have high potential to benefit cognitive skills that are crucial for academic success for students. Exergames are also ideal for use by children because they contain nonviolent content, may be especially useful for children from low socioeconomic households who may not have access to safe recreational equipment, and for children with negative perceptions of exercising around others because exergames continuously adapt the difficulty level based on performance and match children’s individual capabilities.

Cognitive function interventions are used as remediation or prevention of cognitive deficits, so early intervention is crucial; yet little research has conducted training interventions involving exergames with children below school-age. Currently, I am investigating whether exergame-induced training before entering formal schooling may enhance the functioning of cognitive skills, and with carefully controlled experiments determine the underlying mechanisms of why.

Hobbies improve work–life balance, increase productivity, and help scientists reach creative solutions in their work.

My hobbies include sculpting, drawing, and painting-usually inspired by data visuals and brain images produced by researchers in the field I look up to.

Brain Lobectomies from the Behrmann Laboratory: Fauvism inspired acrylic on canvas. This piece was donated to Mindscapes: an exhibition held to reduce misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental health. The proceeds from the scientific artwork sold at this event were donated to charities that specialize in mental health services for under-served communities, ranging from counseling and suicide prevention programs, and also to the LGBTQ community.

Diffusion Tensor Brain Imaging from the CoAx Laboratory: Split canvas on mixed media

Cassie with a sculpture she made out of electronic parts "The MacWhinster:" engineered from 1000+ recyclable computer parts from Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science Department.

For The Kids represents Penn State's THON: the largest student-run philanthropy in the world for the fight against pediatric cancer

Ever wonder where your socks disappear to? I have a theory...

Tonotopic Maps Across the Auditory Cortex: Reverse Perspective 3D Painting from the Holt Lab

Convergence Colorized: Warhol inspired Acrylic on Canvas modeled from Diffusion Spectrum Imaging modeled on research by Kevin Jarbo. Until the work by Jarbo and Verstynen, the evidence for convergent corticostriatal projections had not been verified by visualizing white matter connectivity of a live human brain

Historically, the disciplines of exercise physiology, developmental psychology and cognitive science, art and technology have had little interaction together despite being able to answer important questions when molded together. I'm bringing together these disciplines in my on-going research to contribute to the fields and make an impact on the community.