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Dr. Robert Dowman

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Dr. Robert Dowman
Professor and Chair of Psychology
Psychology Department
173 Science Center
PO Box 5825
Potsdam, NY 13699-5825

Phone: 315-268-3836
Fax: 315-268-7118
E-mail: rdowman@clarkson.edu

Education
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1984

Courses Taught
Experimental Psychology, Perception, Physiological Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience.

Research Interests
 Our work is aimed at understanding how the brain detects a biologically-significant stimulus, such as snakes, pain, etc., and re-directs attention towards it. This fundamental cognitive process is critical to our survival and has been shown to play an important role in the development of some anxiety disorders (e.g., phobias) and some types of chronic pain. We study this phenomenon using event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded non-invasively from the scalp to identify the brain areas involved in detecting the biologically-significant stimulus and re-orienting attention. We also perform psychophysical studies to document behavioral evidence for the attentional bias, such as faster reaction times. The ERP studies have identified a network of brain areas that are important in detecting and re-orienting attention. These areas include the sensory areas of the cerebral cortex (e.g., the dorsal posterior insula for painful somatic stimuli) and areas important in attentional control, such as the medial and lateral prefrontal cortices and the locus coeruleus. Dr. Daniel ben-Avraham (Physics), Dr. Kathleen Fowler (Math and Computer Science) and I have developed an artificial neural network model of this system that provides excellent fits of the behavioral and ERP data. Our current experimental studies are investigating novel predictions generated from the modeling studies, including whether the attentional bias is specific to the biologically-relevant stimuli or to other neutral stimuli presented in that context. Clarkson undergraduates who have worked on this project in the past year include Paul Colbert, Zachary Towne, Nick Cardin and Camille Guillemin. All have given presentations at Clarkson's SURE conference and some at international scientific meetings.

Publications (Last 5 years)
Dowman, R. Neural mechanisms underlying pain’s ability to reorient attention: Evidence for sensitization of somatic threat detectors. Cognitive and Affective Behavioral Neuroscience, 14 (2014) 805-817, DOI: 10.3758/s13415-013-0233-z.  

Dowman, R. The Role of Somatic Threat Feature Detectors in the Attentional Bias Towards Pain: Effects of Spatial Attention, Psychophysiology, 48 (2011) 397-409

Presentations at Scientific Meetings (Last 5 years)
Dowman, R., Toia, A, DeFruscio, A. & Colbert, P. Erotica Enhances Attentional Disengage and Reorienting: The Roles of Arousal, Pleasantness, and Goal Relevance, Psychonomic Annual Meeting, Toronto CA, Nov 14-17, 2013.

Dowman, R. & Toia, Alyssa. (2012) The Salient Stimulus Benefit for Attentional Capture is Greatest When it is Unattended. Psychonomic Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nov 15-17.

Dowman, R., Carey, N., & Dorchies, G. (2011) Electrophysiological evidence for sensitization of somatic threat detectors. Psychonomic Annual Meeting, Seattle WA, Nov 3-6.

Lowenstein, K., Leventhal, B., Drouin, K., Dowman, R., Fowler, K., Mondal, S. (2011) Simulation and Model calibration with sensitivity analysis for threat detection in brain. The 23rd European Modeling & Simulation Symposium (Simulation in Industry), Sept 12-14, Rome Italy.

Dowman, R. Attentional bias towards somatic threats is mediated by attentional set. Psychonomic Annual Meeting, St. Louis MO, Nov 18-21, 2010.

Dowman, R., Quin, Jennifer, & Sieg, E. Mechanisms Underlying the Capture of Attention by Somatic Threats. American Psychological Society 22nd Annual Meeting, Boston MA May 27-30, 2010.

Student Presentations (Last 5 years)
Cardin, N., Towne, Z. & Dowman R. Attention bias towards biologically significant stimuli. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2014.

Colbert, P.A., Guillemin, C. & Dowman, R. Attention bias towards positive emotional stimuli: An event-related potential study. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2014. 

Shannon, W., Fowler, K. & Dowman, R. Model parameter calibration for threat detection in the brain. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, August 2013. 

Colbert, P. & Dowman, R. Attentional bias towards positive emotional stimuli. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2013. 

Defruscio, A.J. & Dowman, R. Constructing a LabView program for ERP studies. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2013. 

Defrisco, A. & Dowman, R. The effects of threat on spatial attentional capture of visual stimuli. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, August 2012. 

Defrisco, A. & Dowman, R. Previous trial effects on the attentional capture of somatosensory stimuli. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, Aug 2012. 

Toia, A. & Dowman, R. Cognitive processes underlying the attentional bias towards positive emotional stimuli. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2012. 

Starowicz, J. & Dowman, R. Unexpected pain shifts attention to the exploration mode. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2012. 

Christopherson, B. & Dowman, R. The role of elementary stimulus features in the attentional bias towards somatic threats. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2012. 

Toia, A. & Dowman, R. Cognitive processes underlying underlying the attentional bias towards biological threats. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2011. 

Carey, N., Dorchies, G., & Dowman, R. Evidence for sensitization of somatic threat detectors in the human brain. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2011. 

Drouin, K., Dowman R. Modeling how the brain detects threats. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2010. 

Sieg, E., Dowman, R. Cognitive processes underlying the attentional bias towards threats to the body. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2010. 

Samuels, K., Van Arsdale, S., Dowman, R. Mechanisms of detecting and orienting attention towards threats to the body. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2010. 

Quinn, J. Dowman, R. Investigation of how the brain orients attention towards threats to the body. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2009. 

Lowenstein, K. Dowman, R. A toolkit for developing neural network models of how the brain detects and orients attention toward threat. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2009.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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