- Research Program Mentor
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Behavioral neuroscience and neurobiology of psychiatric illnesses
What causes someone to hallucinate?
Schizophrenia is an illness marked by experiences which deviate from our accepted reality; this includes hearing or seeing things which are not actually there (a hallucination). In this project you will dive into scientific literature on the causes of hallucinations, reading studies about potential brain-related causes and changes in the way a person perceives and processes the world which could make them hallucinate. We will also explore how clinical hallucinations relate to experiences we all might have such as falling for an optical illusion or thinking we hear our phone when it didn’t buzz. This will culminate in a literature review paper about what causes hallucinations.
Stigma and mental illness
It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness in the US, and yet mental illnesses are poorly understood. There are high rates of stigma towards people with mental illnesses and misconceptions about these illnesses. This stigma is known to have negative impacts on outcomes for patients. In this project, you can conduct surveys in your local community to learn more about what the most common misconceptions about mental health are. We can then work together to think of ways to improve education about these common misconceptions- maybe a short educational video or flyer.
Why do people believe conspiracy theories?
Why do people endorse conspiracy theories like the belief that humans have never been to the moon? First we can dive into scientific papers that have studied why conspiracy theories and other extreme beliefs emerge and what environmental conditions might increase them. We can even think about how the covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s conspiracy-related beliefs. You can then use surveys to study whether different forms of stress or emotional states lead to higher endorsement of conspiracy theories. For instance, do people who experience more uncertainty or anger in their lives also believe more conspiracy theories? Have another idea for studying conspiracy theories, let’s try it!