Research at UNF
The animal learning laboratory at UNF serves as a place for teaching and faculty research. My animal research with rats has recently centered on two main topics: Development of a method to study animal behavior in detail in learning experiments. Digitized images of rat behavior were integrated with computerized recording of learned activity. This work was published (Iversen, 2002) [full references can be found in the ShortVitae] and presented at conventions. I have also developed an automated stimulus-presentation tool for studies of tactile and olfactory discrimination in rats. The equipment is fully automated and computerized and led to a publication (Iversen, 2008) as well as convention presentations. Based on such a conference presentation, I was invited to give a talk at the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva, Switzerland. This organization uses trained feral rats to detect hidden landmines by their odor in previous war zones in Africa. My work on odor discrimination in rats is relevant for this project and the organization was interested in my input on their applied research. I now serve as a remote consultant on the animal-related demining projects.
Other scholarly activity has involved development of some models for stimulus control and development of recommendations for use of certain procedures for use in treatment protocols for behavior modification projects with children with disability. This work also resulted in two publications (Iversen, 2005, 2006).
Research with Chimpanzees in Japan
Prior to the award period, during a sabbatical and several summers I visited Primate Research Institute in Japan for research with chimpanzees, using this species as a model for teaching of complex motor skills without the use of language. Results from this prior research were analyzed within the award period resulting in publication of two papers and one chapter (Iversen & Matsuzawa, 2001a, 2001b, 2003) and several presentations at conventions. In addition, I was twice invited with full pay from Kyoto University to present my research at two international symposia in Japan on primate cognition, one in 2000 and one in 2008. Although I stopped this line of research because of the remote location of the laboratory, I still analyze other results from the prior research and additional publications are to follow.
Research with paralyzed patients in Germany
Over many years I have collaborated with researchers in Germany (University of Tuebingen and University of Frankfurt) on developing communication and assessment methods for severely paralyzed human patients, who no longer have reliable speech or limb movement. The patients have been trained to use their EEG (electroencephalogram - “brain waves”) to control a cursor on a monitor via a computer. When they can control the cursor they are presented with letters on the monitor and they can then move the cursor to the letters that they want. Thereby these patients, who otherwise would have no means of communication, can in fact communicate, albeit very slowly. I coauthored several published papers on this research (including one article in Nature) prior to the award period. Subsequent research done over a summer period resulted in two additional publications which I coauthored (Birbaumer et al., 2000; Kaiser et al., 2001). I later modified the same method of communication to assess the cognitive abilities of severely paralyzed patients and conducted additional research in Germany. Two papers about this new research were published recently (Iversen et al., 2008a, and Iversen et al., 2008b).
For references, see CV