Waldorf, MD— Students in Advanced Placement (AP) psychology learn about mental processes and human behavior. The typical curriculum includes topics such as biological bases of behavior, sensation and perception, learning and cognition, motivation, developmental psychology, testing and individual differences, treatment of abnormal behavior and social psychology. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Lauren Ball’s AP psychology students at North Point High School got a look into breakthrough research in the field.

Members of the University of Maryland Department of Neuroscience and Cognitive Science visited to share their research with the students.

“This was a great opportunity for the students to understand the science behind the theories and concepts that we learn about in class,” Ball said.

During the presentation, University of Maryland scientists presented research using the fMRI to study bilingualism and secondary language acquisition, psychopathology in children, and other developmental issues related to the developing brain.

Ana Lancaster, from the university’s second language acquisition department, explained how older language learners may benefit more from classroom instruction while younger children may benefit more from language immersion outside of a classroom environment.

Sarah Blankenship, Ph.D., a University of Maryland graduate, focused her research on the neurobiology of depression. Blankenship investigated how studying neural network connections in the brain can help researchers understand psychological disorders. Her studies found that more negativity in parenting may lead to long term effects of depression in offspring.

Dustin Moraczewski, a third year doctoral student, presented his research on how social context plays a role in seeing the differences in brain activity in individuals with autism vs. those with normal development. He uses MRI scans to study these differences.

“[I’m] very interested in learning about how the different neurons correlate with one another while acquiring new languages,” Elge Stevens, a senior AP psychology student, said.

Amiyah Morgan is a bilingual student in AP psychology. “I found it interesting that as you grow up, some neuron connections go away through a process called pruning,” Morgan said. “I was also interested in how all learning of new languages takes place in the same part of the brain.”

Every student was enthusiastic about the opportunity to hear about the new research related to their course studies in psychology.

“Ms. Ball inspires students to open their minds and view the world around them with a different perspective,” Jessica Pratta, social studies department chair at North Point High School. “She provides a good foundation and extra opportunities for students to go on to explore the social sciences through higher education.”