Information for potential graduate students

Our research in the Medina lab is dedicated to understanding how the mind represents the body. Our work uses a number of different techniques, including functional and structural neuroimaging, brain stimulation (transcranial magnetic stimulation), and behavioral studies. In particular, we are very interested in work using perceptual illusions, along with research understanding brain-damaged individuals and people with various forms of synesthesia.

See below for answers to frequently asked questions.

Are you accepting graduate students this year?

Yes! Our lab is recruiting graduate students for the 2024-25 academic year at Emory University. Prospective students should apply to the cognitive and computational sciences area in the Department of Psychology.

Which student are a good fit for the lab?

In our lab, we work to develop and test new ideas about behavior, cognitive processes and the brain. To do so, one needs to have a strong desire to solve problems and use critical thinking skills to reach logical conclusions. Coding skills, a strong statistics background, and research experience are strongly desirable but not necessary. Applicants should have a strong interest in cognition, attention, perception and/or neuroscience.

More specifically, our lab has focused on understanding how the brain represents the body. This covers a wide range of topics including psychophysical examinations of tactile processing, neural plasticity and interhemispheric processing, understanding how the brain constructs a coherent representation of our bodies, and embodiment. We use a variety of methods: standard cognitive psychological studies (especially with body illusions), brain stimulation (TMS), and my favorite technique – single case cognitive neuropsychology. If you have an interest in these topics and techniques, I encourage you to apply.

What kind of research has your lab done in the past?

Here are a few blurbs on recent published papers from the lab:

  • Using p-curve analyses, we found no evidence that a popular form of brain stimulation (tDCS) influences cognitive processing.
  • We discovered a new variant of the mirror-box illusion that makes you feel like your hand is in the opposite posture. We then used this to show how our “body schema” contributes to multisensory integration.
  • We found evidence for different subtypes of mirror-touch synesthesia, a condition in which people feel touch on their own bodies when seeing touch on someone else.
  • We reported a rare case of multimodal synchiria subsequent to stroke.  When seeing a visual stimulus on their ipsilesional side, the individual perceived visual stimuli on both side – but only when on the hands, and only for brief stimulus durations.
  • We discussed how functional neuroimaging with single-case studies of brain-damaged individuals can lead to advances in understanding cognitive processing.

Other papers can be found on the publications page.

What is your lab currently working on?

Below are a few of the questions our lab is currently working on:

  • How can illusions (e.g. the mirror box illusion, rubber hand illusion, etc.) inform us as to how the brain represents the body?
  • What is “embodiment”? What processes are involved in embodying objects that are not ours? How are these processes influenced by vision (e.g. using mirror boxes and/or virtual reality).
  • How does the brain reorganize after stroke? And how does this reorganization relate to behavioral outcomes?
  • How does the brain change after amputation?
  • How does the brain solve the problem of multisensory integration – specifically with regards to the body?
  • What are the limitations of current practices in brain stimulation?
  • How can individuals with synesthesia (mirror-touch, grapheme-color) inform cognitive models?

Before I apply, can I contact you to ask questions about the lab?

Yes – via email.

As a new graduate student, what should I expect?

In the first year, I usually have multiple projects that students can get started on when they begin in the lab. My ultimate goal as a mentor is to train graduate students to become independent scientists who generate their own hypotheses to test. Over time, we will work together towards developing your understanding of the literature and experimental design so that you will become an independent scientist.

What is your mentorship style?

Typically, I interact with students in the lab throughout the week, as well as more formally in a weekly group lab meeting and weekly individual meetings with each graduate student. In these meetings, I will hear your progress on the projects you are working on and will ask guiding questions to help move the projects forward. I will point you towards the existing literature on the topic, but I will also ask you to go beyond published research towards defending your own new ideas. As a developing independent scientist, you should be coming up with your own research questions and experimental designs. My expectation is that graduate students will run studies from start to finish – from question development to data analysis to writing (and publishing!) a manuscript.

Why should I join your lab?

Good question! First, I believe that the research we do is fun, unique and intellectually rewarding. Perceptual illusions are “cool” – I really enjoy just observing the reaction of someone after we create the sensation of a sixth finger (Anne Boleyn illusion) or feel their body in one place/position when they “know” that not to be true (our mirror box research). Examining individuals with different types of synesthesia demonstrate the variability and diversity in human perception. And working with individuals with brain damage is fascinating – we are presented with the puzzle of someone’s deficit and then have to engage in detective work to figure out what is going on. In all of these examples, the work is challenging and involves significant amounts of thinking and effort. In the end, our hope is that it will lead to a better understanding of (a very small part of) the human condition.

Furthermore, as a graduate student you will learn skills in critical thinking, statistical analysis, scientific writing that you can carry in a future career in academia or industry.

Where can I get more information on how to apply?

See this page.