Brain Potential Lab

The mission of the Brain Potential Lab is to Help People Through Science. We are a psychology research group focused on the investigation of serious mental illness; namely schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We use several different methods to study the experience and social consequences of having a mental illness, and how these may be linked to the underlying neuropathology of the disorder. Through a better understanding of the relationships between symptoms and biological functioning, we hope to inform treatment and improve the overall well-being of our patients.

Current Research

Self & Empathy Study

Personal accounts from patients and many streams of the research report that individuals with psychosis often loose clear boundaries between self and the world around them. This loss of self-agency may be related to treatment features such as hope and how active patients are in their treatment, and may also affect how they interact with others. Self-referential thought (thinking about yourself) has been linked to different patterns of brain wave activity (EEG) in those who are expert meditators and in those with clinical disorders associated with rumination. We are currently investigating whether an impaired sense-of-self is related to social functioning, empathy, perceptual disturbances and patterns of brainwave activity in those with psychosis. If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact us via email or telephone.

Neural Oscillations of Sensory Gating in Schizophrenia


Sensory gating is a process in which the brain’s response to irrelevant stimuli is inhibited so that individuals are not “flooded” or inundated by all the sights and sounds around us. Individuals with schizophrenia often report feeling overwhelmed by their surroundings, and they display deficits in the neural activity associated with filtering out extraneous information. This is thought to reflect a faulty inhibitory system, but the exact mechanisms of this function are unknown. This study investigates the brain wave activity when this inhibitory system should be active, to understand when it is active and how it is disrupted in those with schizophrenia. The way in which we are focusing on both neural activity and the timing of activation may provide a new framework for studying the mechanisms that support sensory inhibition.

The Relationship between Cannabis Experience, Schizotypy, and Social Functioning

Social functioning explains how humans interact with others and their environment. Many factors, such as schizotypy and cannabis experience, may affect an individual’s capacity to engage with others and to behave within social norms. Schizotypy is a set of personality characteristics and experiences that fall along the schizophrenia spectrum. Endorsing more schizotypal traits is associated with poorer social functioning. Also, there is an established relationship between cannabis experience and schizotypy, such that those who endorse more schizotypal characteristics are also more likely to report both psychosis-like experiences and unpleasant after effects associated with cannabis use. It is currently unclear how cannabis experience, schizotypy, and social functioning are related. The purpose of this study is to test cannabis experience as a mediator of the relationship between schizotypy and social functioning. This study is one of only a handful that focuses on the experience one has while using cannabis, instead of simply measuring whether someone does or does not use. It is also novel in that we aim to understand how schizotypy and unusual experiences while using cannabis affects people’s everyday social functioning.

Event-related Brain Potentials and Theta Activity Associated with Facial Emotion Memory

Facial emotion recognition is an important component of daily functioning and is highly connected to the social element of human interaction. At present, it is not clear whether initial stimulus encoding or memory maintenance of the face promote accurate facial emotion memory. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the mechanisms of facial affect memory. Specifically, we aim to compare whether the type of emotion, the length of the delay interval, or robustness of encoding the initial stimulus are associated with accurate facial emotion recognition and memory. Results from this study will provide a clearer understanding of the processes involved in facial emotion recognition and memory. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia exhibit poor facial emotion recognition and memory deficits.  A clarification of the components of facial emotion memory will allow for interventions to be targeted at either initial emotion encoding, memory maintenance, or both aspects of facial emotion recognition.

Demographic Differences in Resting State EEG in Healthy Controls and Patients with Schizophrenia

The default mode network (DMN) is composed of different parts of the brain that are active at the same time. It is special because it is one of the few networks in the human brain that is more active when we are at rest, compared to when we are performing a task. Research suggests that it may be related to self-referential processing (thinking about yourself). Previous studies examining the brain at rest have found differences when comparing patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls. While these findings are fairly well-established, the effect of basic demographic factors on the default mode network, like age and sex, is currently unknown. This study will investigate the impact of age and sex on resting state brain wave activity in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls. Through this study, we hope to learn more about how the brain ages, and how sex and age may interact with the disease process in those with schizophrenia.