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Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity

Cognitive & Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity

Contact information

Kansas State University
Department of Psychological Sciences
492 Bluemont Hall
1114 Mid-Campus Drive
Manhattan,KS 66506
Phone: (785) 532-6850

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About Us

The CNAP Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) is funded through an $10.6M grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P20 GM113109) in 2017. CNAP is housed at Kansas State University in the Department of Psychological Sciences  and is directed by Dr. Kimberly Kirkpatrick who is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Dr. Lester Loschky, a Professor in Psychological Sciences serves as the Associate Director. Kansas State hosts three research projects (Drs. Heather Bailey, Mary Cain, and Charles Pickens) and two research cores (behavioral neuroscience and neuroinformatics). The behavioral neuroscience core is directed by Dr. Kimberly Kirkpatrick and is housed in the Department of Psychological Sciences. The neuroinformatics core is directed by Dr. Daniel Andresen and will be housed within the Beocat supercomputer cluster facility in the College of Engineering.

We are partnered with the Department of Psychology at Wichita State University, which hosts Dr. Rui Ni’s research project and the driving simulator research core. 

       KSU Psych COBRE group
The K-State CNAP project leads and directors (from left to right): Dr. Heather Bailey, Dr. Lester Loschky, Dr. Kimberly Kirkpatrick, Dr. Charles Pickens, Dr. Mary Cain

Our Research

Changes that occur in the brain as a function of growth, aging, or experience are referred to collectively as plasticity. Plasticity is essential for adaptive behaviors, and is important for healthy functioning. CNAP researchers investigate plasticity in humans and animal models using basic and translational research techniques.  The overarching goal of the center is to understand the mechanisms of cognitive/neural plasticity and to promote healthy functioning.

Synergy among our research programs is promoted by three cross-cutting themes that promote interdisciplinary connections among faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students conducting research in relevant programs across the two campuses.

Research on aging and neurodegeneration connects with active multi-disciplinary centers on aging at Kansas State and Wichita State. The average age of the US population has been increasing significantly, and persons over 65 now represent ~15% of the population with projections of ~22% by 2040. Understanding factors that promote healthy aging (both in terms of cognitive performance and delaying disease onset) can have a major financial impact in addition to the overall impact on the well being of the US population. Our projects related to aging are designed to understand mechanisms that impact on important everyday functioning, which is critical for maintaining an independent lifestyle. 

Research on the neurobiology of reward and decision will examine neuronal plasticity of reward valuation, with links to decision making and alcohol abuse. Given the numerous disorders associated with deficient reward valuation and decision making processes, including ADHD, drug abuse, gambling, and obesity, there are rich opportunities for C-NAP to make a significant impact on the field in these areas. 

Research on translational/comparative neuroimaging is an area of recent growth and additional planned growth at K-State. With the establishment of a new small-animal imaging core in the Department of Chemistry coupled with plans to grow human neuroscience in the Department of Psychological Sciences and the collaborative use of human neuroimaging facilities at University of Kansas Medical School, we are in a position to be able to support both animal model and human neuroimaging techniques. These techniques can be implemented to answer questions relating to aging and neurodegeneration as well as work in the neurobiology of reward and decision, significantly advancing our understanding of neuronal plasticity mechanisms within these areas. Neuroimaging is an essential technique for understanding neuronal plasticity, and we aim to develop a strong focus on this area over the course of COBRE Phase I.