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The Neural Mechanisms of Consciousness (Present)

Where does consciousness come from? Thousands of years of inquiry have honed the source of consciousness to the brain. Still, the precise neural mechanisms of consciousness are unknown. My research uses diverse, cutting-edge computational and neuroimaging approaches, including machine learning, intracranial and scalp EEG, MEG, fMRI, and eye tracking/pupillometry to investigate the brain mechanisms of human consciousness. Colleagues and I found evidence that consciousness involves large-scale brain networks (e.g., Kronemer et al., 2022; Khalaf et al., 2023Herman et al., 2019). Moreover, recent research on afterimages reveals that mental imagery and afterimage perception share perceptual features, suggestive of shared central neural mechanisms (Kronemer et al., 2023). Likewise, a study in preparation using high-field fMRI finds that perceptually-matched sensory and afterimage perception share broad cortical and subcortical networks (Kronemer et al., in preparation).

Motor Network Regulation of Cognition and Mood State (2013 - 2021)

Cognitive and motor neural systems are often considered spatially and functionally isolated brain networks. However, there is growing evidence that regions previous thought to be dedicated to motor function (e.g., cerebellum) also engage in a variety of non-motor functions, including cognition and mood regulation (Marvel, Morgan, & Kronemer, 2019). In a study involving transcranial magnetic stimulation, colleagues and I found that disrupting function of the motor cortex impairs working memory performance, particularly when participants utilized motor strategies for rehearsal (e.g., motor traces; Liao et al., 2014). These results suggest a functional link between cognitive and motor networks in working memory. Moreover, we developed a novel clinical questionnaire to study mood-related symptoms in people with cerebellar ataxia - often a genetic disorder that causes degeneration of the cerebellum. Results from our questionnaire reveal mood changes (e.g., depression) linked with cerebellar disorder (Kronemer et al., 2021).

Chronic HIV and Impairment of Cognitive and Motor Function (2013 - 2017)

Antiretroviral medications allow people to live for decades with HIV. However, the consequences of chronic HIV and treatment with antiretrovirals are still under investigation. Colleagues and I found that people with HIV have motor-cognitive impairment, even when they were identified as normal on clinical exams (Kronemer et al., 2017). In addition, we found that people with HIV are sensitive to reward, particularly if they reported impulsiveness near the time of contracting HIV, thus linking HIV-risk taking behaviors and reward sensitivity. 

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