It’s Psychophyisiological!

The Department of Behavioral Sciences has been putting its new Biopac equipment to good use! The Biopac systems allow researchers to collect psychophysiological measures (e.g., electrical conductivity of the skin, brain activity, heart rate, facial muscle activity, etc).

For example, last semester Maya Mackenzie used the Biopac systems as part of her practicum to measure how different aromas could influence retention and anxiety levels. In addition, Dr. Jeff Sable routinely uses the Biopac systems to demonstrate course principles in his classes (e.g., Biological Psychology, Sensation & Perception, and Psychophysiology). In fact, the members of Dr. Sable’s Psychophysiology class are currently conducting a study examining the possible differences in brain activity between those who experience migraine headaches and those who do not. Also, students in both Correlational Research Methods and Experimental Research Methods can use the Biopac systems as part of the research project for the courses.

Other students and faculty are also currently using the Biopac systems as part of their research programs. For example, Stephen Schenck and Antwa’nae Briars, under the supervision of Professor Chanda Murphy and Dr. Rod Vogl, are measuring Electro Dermal Activity (EDA) and Pulse (PPG) in a new technique to detect deception. As seen in the picture above, all the equipment for this study is connected to the non-dominant hand of the participant who has volunteered for the study. The participant was then put through a series of tests where he was asked to purposefully attempt to deceive the researcher. Also, Dr. Rod Vogl, Chanda Murphy, Katie Hicks, and Allie Fairly-Kirkpatrick are using the Biopac systems to examine how the emotions associated with memories change over time.

In their study the participants are exposed to a variety of pictures. As the pictures are presented the researchers are measuring facial muscle activity (fEMG) in the zygomaticus muscle area (smile muscle) and corrugator muscle area (frowning muscle). If a picture evokes a memory the participants will be asked how they felt about the event at the time that the event occurred and how they currently feel about the event. The participant’s facial muscle activity should coincide with their self-report. The acquisition of the Biopac systems has definitely strengthened both the teaching and research programs in the Department of Behavioral Sciences.