Keith Feigenson, Ph.D.
Keith Feigenson, Assistant Professor of Psychology
215 Teel Hall
B.A. Psychology, Haverford College
Ph.D. Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania
Areas of Expertise
- Cognitive science
- Individual Differences
- Psy100: General Psychology
- Psy200: Research Design and Analysis I
- Psy201: Research Design and Analysis II
- Psy205: Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Psy305: Behavioral Neuroscience
- Psy306: Advanced Topics in Psychology
- Psy405: Psychobiology: Seminar on Selected Topics
Publications and Research
The study of the relationship between psychology and biology goes by many names, including: Biopsychology, Psychobiology, Biological Psychology, and Behavioral Neuroscience. No matter what name you choose to use, it is the discipline that delves into the interaction of the mind and the body and seeks to understand the relationship between structure and function. Neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists use experimental models ranging from individual neurons to live animals to humans and our behavior, all of which can involve electrophysiology, genetics, pharmacology, and biochemistry, among a multitude of other methodologies. My graduate background was in developmental neuroscience, investigating the differentiation of neuronal cells in models of multiple sclerosis. Since then, I have been studying some of the perceptual and cognitive problems facing people with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia. My current research involves exploring how we can understand neurobiological mechanisms through human behavior.
My research includes:
Perceptual organization and optical illusions: Perceptual organization is the process by which we make sense of our environment through transforming individual sensory stimuli into coherent wholes. It strongly depends on the cognitive ability to interpret context, such as when estimating an object’s size and distance by comparing it to the size of other nearby objects. This process is disturbed in schizophrenia, especially with regards to the symptom dimension of cognitive disorganization. I am interested in studying how this process varies in the general population. We can examine this through optical illusions, wherein a normal visual system is tricked by integrating context cues that actually misrepresent the size, shape, or distance of a specific object.
Predictive reasoning: Our brains use a lot of predictive reasoning when forming perceptions of the world around us, using previously learned information to inform current judgments. This is known as Bayesian processing. It involves accurately processing sensory stimuli within the appropriate context, and is used in many of our cognitive and perceptual activities. It is also thought to be impaired when people suffer from delusions, or strongly held ideas that are not supported by factual evidence. I am interested in studying whether individual differences exist in our Bayesian reasoning and how we can examine it through human behavior. To this extent, I am looking to see if people are consistent in different types of cognitive activities that employ Bayesian reasoning, including perceptual tasks, such as the hollow mask illusion, and reasoning tasks, such as a jumping to conclusions task.
Biomarkers: One of the hot topics in psychiatric research is the idea that we can use biological indicators to identify or predict biological states, conditions, or disorders. In the mental health field, increasing attention is being given to things such as inflammatory molecules, circulating antibodies, and cortisol levels, and how they could relate to the onset, development, and progression of specific disorders. I am interested in whether we can see if biomarkers can be used to study differences in certain aspects of cognition, such as whether stress (examined through cortisol levels) can influence perceptual organization (in other words, how stress can alter our perceptions of and interactions with our environment).
Cognitive Training: Can training in one domain of behavior improve performance in a separate domain, if the two share a common biological mechanism? To this extent, I hope to use perceptual organization tasks to see if improving performance in visual areas can simultaneously improve performance in auditory areas (and vice versa). Another question that arises from this line of investigation is what other mechanisms exist to improve mental processes involved in perception and cognition? For example, transcranial direct current stimulation has proven effective at improving cognition, alleviating depression, and minimizing auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia. Can it also be used to alter or assist with basic cognitive processes like attention and perception?
- Silverstein, S.M., Keane, B.P., Papathomas, T.V., Lathrop, K.L., Kourtev, H., Feigenson, K., Roché, M.W., Wang, Y., Mikkilineni, D., & Paterno, D. (2014) Processing of spatial-frequency altered faces in schizophrenia: effects of illness phase and duration. PLoS One. 9(12): e114642
- Feigenson, K., Keane, B. P., Roché, M.W., & Silverstein, S. M. Contour integration impairment in schizophrenia and first episode psychosis: State or Trait? Schizophrenia Research. 159(23): 515-520.
- Feigenson, K., Hanson, C., & Silverstein, S.M. (In submission) Individual differences on personality measures of cognitive organization are associated with differential activity in visual cortex during a relative size judgment task.
- Feigenson, K., Gara, M., Roché, M., & Silverstein, S.M. (2014) Is Disorganization a Feature of Schizophrenia or a Modifying Influence: Evidence of Covariation of Perceptual, Cognitive, and Behavioral Organization in a Non-Patient Sample. Psychiatry Research. 217: 1-8
- Feigenson, K., Kusnecov, A., & Silverstein, S.M. (2013) Inflammation and the Two-Hit Hypothesis of Schizophrenia. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 38:72-93
- Silverstein, S. M., Keane, B. P., Wang, Y., Mikkilineni, D., Paterno, D., Papathomas, T. V., & Feigenson, K. (2013) Effects of short-term inpatient treatment on sensitivity to a size contrast illusion in first-episode psychosis and multiple-episode schizophrenia. Frontiers in Psychology. 4: 466
- Feigenson, K., Reid, M., See, J., Crenshaw III, E.B., & Grinspan, J.B. (2011) Canonical Wnt signaling requires the BMP pathway to inhibit oligodendrocyte maturation. American Society for Neurochemistry. 3: e00061
- Feigenson, K., Reid, M., See, J., Crenshaw III, E.B., & Grinspan, J.B. (2009) Wnt signaling is sufficient to perturb oligodendrocyte maturation. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. 42: 255-265
- Snyder, H., Feigenson, K., & Thompson-Schill, S. (2007) Prefrontal cortical response to conflict during semantic and phonological tasks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 19: 761-775
- Compton, R.J., Feigenson, K., & Widick, P. (2005) Take it to the bridge: An interhemispheric processing advantage for emotional faces. Cognitive Brain Research 24: 66-72
- Feigenson, K. & Singer, H. Using Clickers in Class to Predict Test Outcome in a General Biology Course: Trials, Obstacles, and Recommendations. IRACDA National Conference, 2014
- Feigenson, K., Keane, B., Y. Wang, Y., Mikkilineni, D., Paterno, D., & Silverstein, S.M. Is Disorganization a Feature of Schizophrenia or an Individual Difference that Modifies Clinical Presentation? International Congress On Schizophrenia Research Abstracts, 2013
- Feigenson, K., Keane, B., Y. Wang, Y., Mikkilineni, D., Paterno, D., & Silverstein, S.M. Variability of Perceptual Organization Correlates with Specific Cognitive Traits in the General Population: Implications for a Modifying Influence in Schizophrenia. Society for Research in Psychopathology Abstracts, 2012
- Feigenson, K. Schizophrenia: What can we learn about the brain from disordered human behavior? 13th Annual Department of Psychiatry Poster session, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Research Talk, 2012
- Feigenson, K., Reid, M., Crenshaw, E. B. III, & Grinspan, J. B. Wnt3a signaling is sufficient to disrupt oligodendrocyte maturation. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 2010.
- Feigenson, K., See, J., Mamontov, P., Williams, M., Reid, M., Crenshaw E.B. III, & Grinspan, J. B. -catenin modulates oligodendrocyte development in vitro and in vivo. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 2008.
- Feigenson, K., See, J., Mamontov, P., Williams, M., Reid, M., Crenshaw E.B. III, & Grinspan, J. B. Wnt3a inhibits oligodendrocyte differentiation via BMP signaling. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 2007.
- See, J., Mamontov, P., Feigenson, K., Crenshaw, E.B. III, & Grinspan, J.B. The maturation of glial cells in the spinal cord is compromised in a BMP signaling mutant. Glia in Health and Disease Abstracts, 2006.