Brian Engdahl

Engdahl speaks to Bergdahl reintegration and recovery

Brain Sciences Center professor of PTSD Research Brian Engdahl was recently interviewed by Alexandra Sifferlin of TIME magazine about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his return to the U.S. after more than 5 years imprisonment in Afghanistan. Dr. Engdahl also appeared on the June 3rd FOX9 News report about Sgt. Bergdahl's repatriation. The following excerpt is from the article "Here’s What Happens To The Mind After 5 Years of Captivity", June 2, 2014 ...

"... Bergdahl’s repatriation is going to be a challenge, and piecing together the psychologically and physically broken veteran is a delicate process. After all, an abduction is the ultimate exchange of power, spurring the start of a complicated relationship based on both deep distrust and reliance, say experts. 'He’s to some degree merged with those who held him,' says Brian Engdahl, professor of PTSD Research and Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. 'He was totally dependent on them for food, shelter, clothing. It can reduce a person to a weak state where their entire life revolves around how their captors are treating them.' A morsel of food becomes a generous gift, only to be withheld at the next feeding ..."

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When asked about Bergdahl's situation by Clara Ritger of the National Journal for the article "The Difficult Reintegration of American POW Bowe Bergdahl", Engdahl said,

""He has a very long road ahead of him to reintegration and recovery ... If it is true that he was held in severe solitary-confinement conditions, the world—even the controlled environment he is now in—will be very overwhelming."

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Dr. Engdahl has also written chapters for the Military Psychologists' Desk Reference, "What we have learned from former POWs." and The Praeger Handbook of Veterans' Health, "Serving America’s Former Prisoners of War: Getting It “Right.”


  Praeger Handbook




Georgopoulos recognized on "Wall of Science"

Dr. Brooks Jackson, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School, has established a "Wall of Science" to recognize the value and impact of research and scholarship. Current faculty members who are first or senior authors on publications that have received at least 1000 citations by at least two of three citation services will be honored on the new installation. Of the 26 papers to be acknowledged, one is by Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos of the Brain Sciences Center and the Department of Neuroscience ...

Figure 3 from Neuronal population coding of movement direction

"Cluster of 224 single cell vectorial contributions (light purple lines) for one movement direction (yellow). The population vector is orange."


Sakellaridi defends 6/18

Sofia Sakellaridi

On Wednesday, June 18 2014, Sofia Sakellaridi will defend her PhD thesis, "Behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying exploration and spatial decision." Ms. Sakellaridi is an academic staff member at BSC and a graduate student in the University of Minnesota Graduate Program in Cognitive Science studying spatial cognition and decision-making

Behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying exploration and spatial decision. (abstract)

The ability to explore novel environments and make decisions is a fundamental component of human and animal behavior. Even though significant progress has been made in recent years in understanding the mechanisms of exploration and decision-making, little is known on how the brain extracts, encodes and processes information from the environment to make decisions. The primary goal of this thesis is to understand the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying the processing of spatial information, acquired during exploration of realistic environments to make spatial decisions. We designed a novel task, in which subjects had to explore maps from various U.S. cities to decide where to build a City Hall, while neuromagnetic fluxes were recorded from their heads using a whole-head MEG device. We found that ongoing neuronal activity in a network of cortical regions was associated with particular spatial parameters of the city maps. This network involved predominantly right frontal and prefrontal areas of the brain, suggesting that these areas have an important role in processing spatial information for making decisions. Additionally, we found other brain areas also involved in the processing of spatial information, such as right temporal areas and cerebellum. These results indicate that processing spatial information for making a decision is a complex process that requires the involvement of more than one region. Finally, we found that the associations between changes in the ongoing neural activity and spatial parameters were modulated by the type of the map. This suggests that, depending on the type of the map, people may use different spatial information to explore the map and make a spatial decision.

We also studied how people make spatial decisions in realistic environments when they were forced to select between a limited set of choices. In this experiment, individuals had to explore maps from various U.S. cities, but now to select between two locations to build a hypothetical Post Office. We recorded subjects' eye positions and analyzed the gaze behavior to characterize how people explored maps to select between these options. We found that subjects were continuously exploring the areas around the two options and the center of the map, by looking back and forth between them before making a decision. Unlike economic choices, in which people follow similar strategies by looking repeatedly at the available options, in our experiment individuals were also exploring the area around the center of the map. These finding suggest that subjects might have mentally placed themselves at the center of the map and evaluated the alternative options with respect to their current location. We also found other similarities with economic choice paradigms, such as people spent more time exploring the area around the option ultimately chosen. Finally, subjects showed a strong bias to select the option they initially explored.

How to become a really cool scientist

BSC scientists Margaret Mahan, Roger Dumas and Nicole Scott

Brain Sciences Center researchers Margaret Mahan, Roger Dumas, and Nicole Scott recently talked to 9th-grade students in CEHD's TRIO Upward Bound science exploration and study skills class about "How to Become a Really Cool Scientist". They talked about their career paths and presented overviews of their investigations into the wonders of Computer Science, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, respectively.

TRIO Upward Bound (TRIO UB) is an academic and college preparatory program funded by the US Department of Education. The purpose of TRIO UB is to develop the skills and motivation necessary for students to successfully complete high school and to enter and succeed in college.


Updated June 23, 2014