Mélise Edwards, Brooke Burrows, and Jasmine Dixon receive Wendy Helmer Graduate Student Award

We are pleased to announce that Mélise Edwards, Brooke Burrows, and Jasmine Dixon (pictured left to right) were chosen as recipients of the Wendy Helmer Graduate Student Award! Mélise’s, Brooke’s, and Jasmine’s fellow graduate students recognized their important contributions in PBS and in the broader community. They have been strong advocates for racial justice, and have worked tirelessly to address inequities in our community.

Alumna Gale Sinatra releases new book | Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It 

At a time when science denial has become deadly, this is a vital book on  how to improve science literacy, understanding, and communication 

tree emerging from lakeSCIENCE DENIAL: Why It Happens and What to Do About It 

Oxford University Press 
July 6, 2021; 9780190944681 

By Gale M. Sinatra and Barbara K. Hofer  

How do we decide whether to accept the human causes of climate change, practice social distancing during a pandemic or decide whether to vaccinate ourselves or our children? The past year has brought home to each and every one of us how critical it is for scientists, policy makers and the media to be good communicators of often complex scientific subjects. It’s also shown why each and every one of us has a responsibility to make informed decisions that are based on facts and evidence, rather than emotions and instincts. Neither of these tasks are easy, but they can save lives. 

Stylianos Syropoulos awarded sixth annual Keith Rayner Memorial Graduate Student Research Award

Stelios posing in office with shelves of booksStylianos Syropoulos, a third-year student in the Psychology of Peace and Violence concentration in the Social Psychology program working with Dr. Bernhard Leidner, was awarded the sixth annual Keith Rayner Memorial Graduate Student Research Award. His project, titled “De-polarizing" American Society: Emphasizing Intergroup Similarities versus Differences as a Mechanism for Decreasing Political Polarization and Hostility, will study whether an emphasis on the dissemination of psychological findings with a focus on intergroup similarities, and not differences, as is the norm of the field, can promote harmony and cooperation between Republican and Democrats. The ultimate goal of the project is to highlight ways through which the dissemination of psychological research can depolarize the American electorate.

Songbird Neurons for Advanced Cognition Mirror the Physiology of Mammalian Counterparts

zebra finch

UMass Amherst research advances understanding of brain circuits

University of Massachusetts Amherst neuroscientists examining genetically identified neurons in a songbird’s forebrain discovered a remarkable landscape of physiology, auditory coding and network roles that mirrored those in the brains of mammals.

The research, published May 13 in Current Biology, advances insight into the fundamental operation of complex brain circuits. It suggests that ancient cell types in the pallium – the outer regions of the brain that include cortex – most likely retained features over millions of years that are the building blocks for advanced cognition in birds and mammals.

Spring 2021 Newsletter

Catch up with the latest PBS news including spotlights on our talented students, faculty, and alumni!

Read full issue

Features include:

  • Virtual Graduation Celebration for the Class of 2021
  • Senior Awards
  • Tweet Blitz: Undergraduate Theses
  • Study shows predictors of cognitive decline in midlife women varied by race
  • Spotlight on Alumni

Also Research Highlights, Awards and Updates, and PBS faculty and students In the Media

Study shows predictors of cognitive decline in midlife women varied by race

women talking in sunny office

Cognitive decline, or the weakening of our ability to think, learn, pay attention, remember, or reason, over time can be predicted by certain health risks present in later life. Hypertension, diabetes, depressive symptoms, and smoking are all known predictors. Current research has not shown how these risk factors affect cognition in midlife and if there are differing results between racial groups. A better understanding of how these risk factors influence cognition in midlife could lead to more effective and timely health interventions. 

John Bickford receives Outstanding Teaching Award

John BickfordJohn Bickford, Senior Lecturer

Outstanding Teaching Award

"I often tell people that being a lecturer at UMass Amherst feels like winning the career lottery. It is the perfect position for me, not only because I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, but also because I’m doing it in an incredibly supportive environment. The university, the College of Natural Sciences, and especially the Psychological and Brain Sciences department have always done an amazing job of making me feel completely welcomed and valued here, and this great honor is another wonderful example of that. Moreover, the amazingly bright, talented, enthusiastic, and just plain delightful students at UMass are a constant source of inspiration for me. So I feel incredibly fortunate to be here, and deeply honored by this award."

Tweet Blitz: 2021 Undergraduate Theses

Every spring we're proud to showcase undergraduate research in a poster-fest attended by students and faculty alike. This year, we took that event virtual using online meeting rooms, and it was a great success! Here are some tweets and posters from our talented students, summing up their awesome projects!

Mackenzie SmithIs polarization beneficial? We found that it actually leads to more effective representatives! —Mackenzie Smith

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The Influence of the Electorate’s Political Diversity on the Legislative Effectiveness of House Representatives
Click to enlarge poster