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Cognition and Neural Science (CNS) Program

Program Overview

The Cognition and Neural Science (CNS) program places a strong emphasis on merging basic brain and cognitive science with applied domains. The program contains two focus or sub-areas, Cognitive Neuroscience and Applied Cognition. Significant synergism results from the fact that many of the faculty identify with both areas. Research areas that are represented in the CNS area include visual perception, attention, memory, executive functioning and decision making. Methodologies that are used include neurobiological animal models, ERP, fMRI, cognitive laboratory methods, and a number of simulation methods including driving, health care, and virtual environments. The research outcomes from the CNS area are on the cutting edge of the field, and the interdisciplinary and translational approach to selected applied problems makes our program nationally and internationally distinctive.

The CNS Graduate program aims to provide training in cognitive psychology, emphasizing both neural and applied levels of analysis. Our program uses a mentor system that permits new students to join an ongoing program of research in a particular laboratory. Students are trained for careers in both academia and industry; the curriculum is therefore designed to help students gain expertise in basic research techniques, theory development, and teaching skills. All students are encouraged to present their research at national scientific conferences and to publish their research in professional journals.

CNS Handbook

Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience uses a wide range of approaches to study the relationship between neural and cognitive processes. Research methods include human and animal cognitive analysis, event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Established connections to the interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Radiology Departments in the University of Utah Medical School, the VA Medical Center, the Center for Advanced Medical Technologies, and the newly formed Brain Institute allow students to add breadth and depth to their cognitive neuroscience training. Current faculty and student research interests include basic and applied cognitive studies of attention; cognitive and neuroimaging approaches to studying space perception and spatial cognition; the study of the influence of human bodily states on perception; behavioral, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging studies of cognitive control; and animal and human studies of memory tasks and associated neural structures.

Applied Cognition

Applied cognition psychology uses a variety of approaches to study how the principles derived from basic cognitive research apply to real-world situations (and visa versa). Rather than focusing solely on basic laboratory studies or on purely applied research, our approach emphasizes a blend of the two so that our laboratory research has implications for applied issues and our applied research provides information that can be used to refine theories of human cognition. Students in the applied cognition focus will be trained to be competitive for positions in both academia and industry. The applied cognition focus links researchers from our program with several researchers in other areas of the department (e.g., Social, Developmental, Clinical/Health) and outside of the department (Engineering, Computer Science, Anesthesiology, Neurosurgery, Veterans Administration Medical Center).

Career Ideas in CNS

  1. Faculty/post-doctoral positions in cognitive psychology, applied cognition, human factors, cognitive neuroscience, and neuroscience.
  2. Research and development jobs in industries such as Microsoft, Google, or Intel.
  3. Human factors or applied cognitive research positions in government agencies such as FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) or DoD (Department of Defense).

Faculty with CNS Focus

Last Updated: 10/10/23