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Dr. Robert Dowman

Dr. Robert Dowman
Professor and Chair of Psychology
Psychology Department
173 Science Center
PO Box 5825
Potsdam, NY 13699-5825

Phone: 315-268-3836
Fax: 315-268-7118
E-mail: rdowman@clarkson.edu

Education
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1984

Courses Taught
Experimental Psychology, Perception, Physiological Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience.

Research Interests
Electrophysiological and computational modeling studies of attending towards threats
Our work is aimed at understanding how the brain detects a threatening stimulus presented outside the focus of attention and re-directs attention towards it. This fundamental cognitive process is critical to our survival and has been shown to play an important role in the development of anxiety disorders and some types of chronic pain. We study this phenomenon using event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded non-invasively from the scalp to identify the brain areas involved in detecting and orienting attention towards threat. We also perform psychophysical studies to document the behavioral evidence for the attentional bias towards threat. The ERP data has identified a network of brain areas that are important in detecting and orienting attention towards threats. These areas include a threat detector network that involves the sensory cortices and amygdala and brain areas important in attentional control, such as the medial and lateral prefrontal cortices. Dr. Daniel ben-Avraham (Physics), Dr. Kathleen Fowler (Math and Computer Science) and I have developed an artificial neural network model of this system that provides excellent fits of the behavioral and ERP data. The modeling studies led to the unexpected prediction that the attentional bias towards threat is greatest when it is presented outside the focus of attention. We have recently confirmed this prediction in behavioral studies that used pictures of threats to the body, and more recently using pictures with positive emotional valence. Clarkson undergraduates who have worked on this project include Gregory Dorchies, Alyssa Toia, Brianna Christopherson, and Arthur DeFruscio. All have given presentations at Clarkson's SURE conference and some at international scientific meetings.

Publications (Last 5 years)
Dowman, R. The Role of Somatic Threat Feature Detectors in the Attentional Bias Towards Pain: Effects of Spatial Attention, Psychophysiology, 48 (2011) 397-409

Dowman, R., Rissacher, D., & Schuckers, S. EEG indices of tonic pain-related activity in the somatosensory cortices. Clinical Neurophysiology, 119 (2008) 1201-1212

Dowman, R., & ben-Avraham, D. An artificial neural network model of orienting attention towards threatening somatosensory stimuli. Psychophysiology, 45 (2008) 229-239

Dowman, R. Neural Mechanisms Of Detecting and Orienting Attention Towards Unattended Threatening Somatosensory Target Stimuli. I. Inter-modal effects. Psychophysiology, 44 (2007)407-419.

Dowman, R. Neural Mechanisms Of Detecting and Orienting Attention Towards Unattended Threatening Somatosensory Target Stimuli. II. Intensity Effects. Psychophysiology, 44 (2007) 420-430.

Dowman, R., Darcey, T.M., Barkan, H., Thadani, V. & Roberts, D. Human intracranially-recorded cortical responses evoked by painful electrical stimulation of the sural nerve. NeuroImage, 34(2007) 743-763.


Presentations at Scientific Meetings (Last 5 years)
Dowman, R. & Toia, Alyssa. (2012) The Salient Stimulus Benefit for Attentional Capture is Greatest When it is Unattended. Psychonomic Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nov 15-17.

Dowman, R., Carey, N., & Dorchies, G. (2011) Electrophysiological evidence for sensitization of somatic threat detectors. Psychonomic Annual Meeting, Seattle WA, Nov 3-6.

Lowenstein, K., Leventhal, B., Drouin, K., Dowman, R., Fowler, K., Mondal, S. (2011) Simulation and Model calibration with sensitivity analysis for threat detection in brain. The 23rd European Modeling & Simulation Symposium (Simulation in Industry), Sept 12-14, Rome Italy.

Dowman, R. Attentional bias towards somatic threats is mediated by attentional set. Psychonomic Annual Meeting, St. Louis MO, Nov 18-21, 2010.

Dowman, R., Quin, Jennifer, & Sieg, E. Mechanisms Underlying the Capture of Attention by Somatic Threats. American Psychological Society 22nd Annual Meeting, Boston MA May 27-30, 2010.

Dowman, R. The neural mechanisms of detecting and orienting attention towards threats to the body, Special Interest Meeting "Symptom Perception and Illness Behaviour", Bellum, Belgium, September 2008.

Dowman, R. An artificial neural network model of orienting attention towards threatening somatosensory stimuli. Society for Psychophysiological Research, 47th Annual Meeting, Savannah Georgia, Oct 17-21 2007.

Rissacher, D., Dowman, R., & Schuckers, S.A.C. Identifying Frequency-Domain Features for an EEG-Based Pain Measurement System. 33rd Annual Northeast Biomedical Engineering Conference, SUNY Stony Brook, New York, March 10-11, 2007.

Student Presentations (Last 5 years)

Toia, A. & Dowman, R. Cognitive processes underlying underlying the attentional bias towards biological threats. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2011

Carey, N., Dorchies, G., & Dowman, R. Evidence for sensitization of somatic threat detectors in the human brain. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2011
 
Drouin, K., Dowman R. Modeling how the brain detects threats. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2010

Sieg, E., Dowman, R. Cognitive processes underlying the attentional bias towards threats to the body. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2010

Samuels, K., Van Arsdale, S., Dowman, R. Mechanisms of detecting and orienting attention towards threats to the body. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2010

Quinn, J. Dowman, R. Investigation of how the brain orients attention towards threats to the body. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2009

Lowenstein, K. Dowman, R. A toolkit for developing neural network models of how the brain detects and orients attention toward threat. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, July 2009

Trickey, K., Dowman, R. Threat detection and the orientation of attention toward threatening stimuli. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2009

Gundling, W. Dowman R. Spatial attention in response to threat. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, August 2009

Lowenstein, K.,  Dowman, R. Modeling the brain mechanisms of detecting and orienting attention towards threat. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, August 2008

Roper, J., Stephens, J., van Arsdale, S., Dowman, R. Developing protocols to study how threats to the body are detected and capture attention. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, August 2008

McHugh, C., O'Brien, S., & Dowman, R., and ben-Avraham, D. An artificial neural network model of threat detection. Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Symposium, Clarkson University, April 2007.

McHugh, C., O'Brien, S., & Dowman, R. An artificial neural network model of threat detection. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2007.

Trombley, T., Dowman, R. Brain computer interface control of a robotic arm: Parameters optimizing accuracy. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, August 2006.

Lajoie, R., Tucker, S., Gregoire, S., Ingrim, D, Dowman R. Gender differences in altruistic behavior among college students. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2006.

Denesha, N., Fraczek, J., Dowman, R. Neural mechanisms of threat detection. Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences, Clarkson University, April 2006.

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