Ramnath ’13 and Ohanesian ’14 Seek Answers in Brain Hemisphere Perception
Ramya Ramnath ’13 and Sarah Ohanesian ’14 are spending the summer researching brain hemisphere perceptional differences under the direction of Assistant Professor of Psychology Serena Butcher. While many of the questions they are asking seem basic, the implications of their research could be fundamental to scientists’ understanding of the human brain.
Ramnath is researching emotional information perception in the left and right brain hemispheres, a topic that has frequently been researched with often conflicting conclusions. One theory states that the right hemisphere of the brain processes all emotional information regardless of content, while the second theory states that the left hemisphere processes positive emotional information and the right hemisphere processes negative emotional information. Ramnath hopes to be able to make her own conclusion on emotional hemisphere processing based on the results of her research, but based on her current knowledge, she suspects the second theory to be correct.
According to Ramnath, “there are a variety of situations in which the left and right hemispheres process information differently; however, researchers [have] yet to identify the underlying reason for all of these hemispheric differences.” She hopes that her findings will help to shed some light on this fundamental yet little understood question.
Ohanesian is studying the unilateral field advantage, a concept which suggests that we perceive repetition more effectively when it appears in only one field of our vision and is processed by only one hemisphere of the brain. Past research by Professor Butcher studied configurations of four and eight visual objects and determined that the unilateral field advantage was lost when eight visual objects were present. She is studying how participants react to five visual objects in order to investigate whether the unilateral field advantage is lost as a result of too many visual objects being present or as a result of broken adjacency in repeated patterns.
Ramnath’s test will involve asking subjects to respond to objects displayed in each of the subject’s two visual fields and measuring recreation times and accuracy. Ohanesian’s test will quickly display sets of five letters to subject, with one of the letters breaking up adjacency, and will ask the subject to identify any repetition. Data will be collected on adjacency and hemisphere perception.
Once the two have collected adequate data, they will analyze their findings to determine if their research supports the current hypotheses in the field – if not, the two will create their own hypotheses to try to explain the data. Ohanesian says that “data so far suggests that our hypothesis is correct [however] we need to run more participants to verify the loss of unilateral field advantage.” Ramnath has yet to form a conclusion based on her data; however, she expects to see statistically significant results.
This is Ramnath’s second year conducting psychology research. She previously worked as a research assistant, a role that Ohanesian is now filing. Ohanesian is a member of Hamilton’s varsity track and cross country reams and is an Adirondack Adventure leader. Ramnath enjoys dancing in three of Hamilton’s dance clubs, is a Study Buddy coordinator and is on the executive board of the Alternative Spring Break program and the Hamilton Association for Volunteering Outreach and Charity. She plans to go on to study psychology in graduate school.
Ramya Ramnath is a graduate of Dhirubhai International School (India) and Sarah Ohanesian is a graduate of Emma Willard School, (N.Y.)