Campus News in Brief

Research studies brain’s decision making

Research by Carnegie Mellon alumnus James Bursley (DC ‘12) and Northeastern University student Ajay B. Satpute yielded surprising results about unconscious brain activity. Brain imaging studies conducted at Carnegie Mellon showed that decision-making parts of the brain remain active despite preoccupation with other tasks.

“This research begins to chip away at the mystery of our unconscious brains and decision-making,” said J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Health & Human Performance Laboratory, in a university press release.

“It shows that brain regions important for decision-making remain active even while our brains may be simultaneously engaged in unrelated tasks, such as thinking about a math problem. What’s most intriguing about this finding is that participants did not have any awareness that their brains were still working on the decision problem while they were engaged in an unrelated task,” he said.

Bursley’s research was conducted on 27 healthy adults, whose brains had been monitored when given a decision while still juggling multiple other tasks.

In order to carry out his research, Bursley received a Small Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the university.He also received a Rothberg Research Award in Human Brain Imaging.

The research conducted was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Teacher awarded Einstein Professorship

Edmund Clarke, university professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering, was named Einstein Professor for 2013 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to a university press release, The Einstein Professorship Program hopes to enhance the training of future generations of Chinese scientists through exchanges with Einstein professors and current top Chinese scientists. Each year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences invites 20 scientists and technologists to present their work in China in order to interact with faculty and students.

Clarke was acknowledged for his work as a pioneer of model checking — an automated method for finding design errors in computer hardware and software in 2007 when the Association for Computing Machinery awarded him the Turing Award.

Clarke also directs the National Science Foundation’s Computational Modeling and Analysis of Complex Systems project, which gave a new perspective on embedded computer systems, and other diseases like cancer.

Clarke received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in mathematics from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University. He has also taught at Harvard University and Duke University.