SIUC studies brainwaves, smoking habits

SIUC studies brainwaves, smoking habits

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Experts say college is a time in a person's life where they are most prone to becoming a smoker in the future.

It's a theory scientists at SIU Carbondale are conducting research on to look more into how smoking in the age group of 18 to 24 affects young people's brainwaves.

The study is the creation of Dr. David Gilbert, a psychology research professor at the university, who has been studying the behaviors and neuroscience of smokers since the '80s.

The research is conducted in the Life Science II building's basement with both undergrad and graduate students, along with a couple other instructors.

The point of the study is to determine whether or not young, light smokers have personality traits and brain chemistry that would result in them becoming heavy smokers according to Dr. Gilbert.

It starts with a thorough assessment of participants behaviors, moods, and personality traits. Here, researchers find out things like if participants are going through stressful situations, if they are susceptible to depression, if they are impulsive, and pretty much anything that could have an effect on the rate your neurons communicate with one another.

From there, students fit participants with a special net cap with 128 electrode sensors that can measure how well different parts of your brain are functioning.

A 3D model of a participant's head is made by an array of cameras in a dome. This is used later to create an image of brain waves with a more clear idea of what parts of the brain are working faster.

Then, participants are put in a chamber with a chair, computer screen, and a controller with a few buttons on it to complete tasks. The room is flooded with white noise to create a more controlled environment without distractions from outside the room.

The tasks are simple tasks such as press the button whenever you see a colored ball on the screen that isn't blue.

While conducting the tests, researchers are in the next room getting a measurement of brain activity on 128 different channels. One for each electrode on the cap.

Here, students and Dr. Gilbert can see everything from your frontal lobe paying closer attention to the task to every minor blink you make during the test.

As the tests go on, images of smoking and eventually nicotine are introduced to the participants' environment. To ensure every participant takes in the same amount of nicotine, a special machine of Dr. Gilbert's design is used for the participant to take in a controlled amount of cigarette smoke.

The researchers can then take your results and filter out the brain waves that relate to muscle tension, like blinking, and show pure data from your brain.

Dr. Gilbert said if participants show little variation between tests they are less likely to become heavy smokers.

Dr. Gilbert has been conducting this research with students since 2014 and has worked with 108 different participants according to the lab coordinator.

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