Our Research Methods

What is fMRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive technique that was developed here at Stony Brook University by Paul C. Lauterbur in the 1970's. MRI machines can create structural and functional images of the brain without using radiation. Structural images allow us to examine snapshots of the brain to examine possible abnormalities in anatomical structure, while functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) allows us to examine patterns of blood flow in the brain. FMRI is invaluable to our research because it allows us to examine regions in the brain that become more active during certain tasks, since blood flow to these regions are different than the rest of the brain. 

what is eye-tracking?

Eye-tracking is a non-invasive technique that allows us to measure eye activity. The eye-tracker itself is table mounted and looks like a small box sitting at the computer. It consists of a video camera and an infrared light source pointed at the eyes of our study participants to track the location and size of pupil and corneal reflection. By using an eye-tracker, we can study eye movement, pupil dilation, and gaze fixations. This information leads to outstanding implications, helping us to understand human behavior by investigating the cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and motor processing that people use when they complete tasks. By studying gaze patterns and pupil dilations during specific tasks, we can understand a range of human behaviors from acceptance and rejection feedback to aggressive tendencies and much more. 

what is the kinect used for?

We capture concurrent facial expressions using a Kinect for Windows v2 sensor. This sensor is table mounted and consists of a video camera and infrared light source pointed at the subject in order to automatically detect and track facial features. The software of the Kinect uses point-tracking methods to collect facial action units; behaviors such as lid tightening, nose wrinkling, brow lowering, etc., which are automatically classified into emotional expressions such as anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, or surprise. It does this by utilizing facial action coding systems. By studying facial expressions and gestures, we can investigate what happens as participants are anticipating, experiencing, and reacting to stimuli in real time.


Since our primary goal is to understand social development, we study populations of all ages, ranging from children to adults.