Dissertation Scholar Studies Neuroscience of Decision-Making

Written by Lindsey Donohue, CAS Communications Intern

mary-frameMary Frame (MA ’14), a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Miami University, is the recipient of this year's Dissertation Scholar Award. The Dissertation Scholar Award is a departmental award given to an outstanding graduate student who is completing their dissertation research. In broad terms, Mary’s research focuses on understanding the cognitive dynamics and processes of how people make decisions. Her master’s thesis utilized electroencephalography (EEG), a measure of neural activity, to observe response conflict in premotor areas of the brain before a response is executed. Her dissertation research will use a different EEG signature, which has yet to be examined in decision-making research thus far, to measure fluctuations of preference during evaluation and choice. These trial-level results can then be used to inform a variety of sequential sampling models of decision-making.

Mary’s dissertation research is focused around methodology and involves collecting data from participants in three different experiments involving basic decision-making tasks. While participants make these decisions their brain activity is measured and recorded. The data is segmented. Following this segmentation, Mary decomposes the EEG signals over motor cortex into a batch of frequencies. Finally she will observe the increases and decreases in power within this frequency band over the course of each trial.

When asked about her process for choosing this research she replied,

“I’m really happy that I’m involved in a lot of different research projects with numerous collaborators at Miami and other institutions, so when it came to specifically selecting a project to focus on for my dissertation, I was rather fortunate to have a choice between multiple projects that I’m proud of.” 

Ultimately deciding to expand on her master’s thesis, which she has been able to use to open up to other opportunities for collaboration.

Mary prides her success to the amazing support of colleagues and collaborators at Miami. Mary says,

“Miami has not only helped me to be a better researcher for my own research projects, but has encouraged me to be a mentor for my undergraduate research assistants and help them pursue their own independent research.”

While at Miami, Mary received the Repperger Research Fellowship at Wright Patterson Air Force Research Laboratory and received multiple letters of commendation from the Psychology department for her achievements with her research. She has furthermore gone off to present her research at conferences for experimental psychologists both domestically and in Germany. As she plans to finish her PhD in the spring of 2017, she wants to turn her part time employment doing government research into full time employment. 

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