Andrew Varan

 
Mentor: Dr. Natalie Ebner
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
 
"I started in research when Dr. Ebner offered me a position as a research assistant my first semester of college. I continue working because I enjoy the work I do as part of a research lab. Doing research has taught me invaluable skills that I could never learn in a course. Whenever I apply for other organizations or jobs, I have a strong talking point and a list of transferable skills primed for any interview. Working in undergraduate research provides me an experience I will never have again after I leave the University. "

Major

Psychology/English

Minor

Philosophy

Research Interests

  • Consciousness
  • Memory
  • Theory of Mind

Academic Awards

  • Dean's List 2012, 2013
  • University Scholar Program 2014

Organizations

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ambassadorsdiv>
  • UF Psychology Club
  • UF Shakespeare in the Park

Hobbies and Interests

  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Traveling
  • Cycling

Research Description

Effects of Executive Functioning on Neurofeedback Success in Aging

My project will focus on the effect of executive functioning on self-regulatory capacity as trained in the context of the rt-fMRI neurofeedback training. My USP project will be part of a larger joint study between University of Florida Psychology (Dr. Ebner) and Biomedical Engineering (Dr. Sitaram) researchers. Just as operant behaviorists can reinforce positive behaviors with rewards, there is exciting new evidence that neuroscientists can reinforce brain-regulatory capacity by use of visual neurofeedback. In particular, the technique of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI) allows training of subjects in up-regulation of targeted brain regions by providing “online” visual feedback on the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in the brain region of interest, with consequent effects on behavior. Before and after neurofeedback training, participants will complete the NIH Toolbox Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS) task as a measure of executive functioning among various other measures. I hypothesize that inter-individual differences in executive functioning at baseline will predict neurofeedback success. I also anticipate that participants in the experimental condition, compared to the control, will show greater improvement between the first pre-training and the post-training DCCS measures. This project will significantly contribute to our understanding of self-regulatory processes in older adults and will specifically speak to the role of executive functioning capacities in this context. Eventually, this work could lead to methods of increasing self-regulation efficiency by executive functioning training.