Thad Polk, Ph.D.

Professor Thad A. Polk is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. He also chairs Michigan’s Institutional Review Board for Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences and serves as an Associate Chair in the Psychology Department. His research combines functional imaging of the human brain with computational modeling and behavioral methods to investigate the neural architecture underlying cognition. Some of his major projects have investigated changes in neural representations as we age, contributions of nature versus nurture to neural organization, and differences in the brains of smokers who quit compared with those who do not. Dr. Polk has taught well over 6,000 UM students over the past 20 years. In 2006, he was named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in recognition of outstanding contributions to undergraduate education, and in 2012 Princeton Review included him on its list of the Best 300 Professors in the US.


 Molly Simmonite IMG_3418

Molly is a postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D in Psychiatry in 2013 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she investigated cerebral connectivity in psychosis. She joined the Computational & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab in April 2016, where she will be using functional MRI, MR spectroscopy and behavioral methods to study the effects of aging on the brain. Her research interests revolve around trying to understand the architecture and behavior of the complex brain networks which underlie normal and pathological brain states.



Poortata (Pia) Lalwani

Pia is a Ph.D. student in the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience area within the Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Michigan.  She completed an Integrated Master of Science from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune.  In the CCN lab, she will be using neuroimaging techniques, electrophysiology measures and behavior data to study individual differences in aging.  Her research goal is to explore how and why neural representations in the visual and auditory domain change with age. In her spare time she loves to travel and cook. She also serves as a co-chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee in Graduate Rackham International (GRIN) organization.


KC (1)Kaitlin  Cassady

Kaitlin is a doctoral candidate in the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience area within the Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Minnesota. In the Computational & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Kaitlin will be studying the effects of aging on neural representations using functional imaging, multivariate pattern analysis, and behavioral methods.  Her research goals are to understand changes in the sensorimotor system produced by learning, external environmental changes, or internal system changes (such as aging and disease).


IMG_7931Fatemeh Noohi

Fatemeh is a doctoral candidate, doing a dual degree in kinesiology and psychology. Her research focuses on multisensory integration, with special focus on neural representation of vestibular network and how it correlates with balance. She is also investigating age related differences in vestibular cortical function and neural markers of susceptibility to fall.




Holly Gagnon

Holly recently joined the Computational & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab as Lab Manager in August 2016. She graduated from Central Michigan University in May 2016 with a B.S. in psychology and neuroscience. Her previous research experience includes using eye-tracking technology to study reading processes, as well as studying how one interacts with their surroundings changes their perception of the environment (embodied cognition).  Holly is interested in many aspects of human cognition, and she is looking forward to using fMRI to explore the aging brain.  Eventually she plans on attending graduate school to study cognitive and experimental psychology.



Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 4.21.56 PMAlyssa Skelton

Alyssa is a senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Linguistics. This is her second year as a member of the Computational & Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. She previously helped Dr. Polk to develop his Great Course series on the Aging Brain, and is now working on programming experiments for Dr. Polk’s current research project. Alyssa is interested in applied psychological research, and intends to attend graduate school in a related field after completing her undergraduate degree. 

Ryan Rich

Ryan is a sophomore Double Majoring in Psychology and Sociology. This is his first semester with the Lab and he is mainly working with Pia on the MiND project. So far he has been learning to code in MatLab using the Visual Toolbox to create different types of visual noise for visual stimulus and he is starting to learn the Psych Toolbox. He has also been trained to give EEGs and will be doing that throughout the semester. Ryan is still relatively new and not sure what his research interests are yet, but is very interested in everything he has done so far.  

IMG_0990Mel Racenstein

Mel is a senior double majoring in Spanish and Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience. She is currently assisting with the MiND study and writing an honors thesis on trends in healthy aging in the somatosensory and sensorimotor systems and behavioral outputs. Mel is interested in neuroimaging, cognition in the healthy aging population and factors that assure long-term independence. After graduation, she plans to continue research in the field, with the long-term aspiration of attending medical school.

Sirenna Burks

Sirenna is a junior majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, as well as Anthropology. This is her first year as an assistant in the Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, and she is interested in learning more about the relationship between the aging brain and specific cognitive processes. Currently, Sirenna is running behavioral pilot tasks to develop accurate and reliable measures of sensation and cognition for use in the MiND study. Sirenna intends to stay involved in the field of research and attend graduate school after completing her undergraduate degree.

Shannon Kelley IMG_6731 (2)

Shannon is a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience. This is her first year as an assistant in the Computational & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, and she has an interest in learning more about how and why informational processing changes as we age, and why different types of processing change in different ways. Currently, Shannon is primarily working on the MiND study in the lab by creating R scripts to analyze data. Shannon plans to pursue an MD/PhD after completing her undergraduate degree.