lab of action
Scott Grafton Gene Tunik Antonia Hamilton Nichola Rice Stephanie Ortigue
Emily Cross Nick Wymbs

Emily Cross, Graduate Student

emilyMy primary interests lie within the domain of action acquisition and observation.  More specifically, I am curious about how motor expertise informs perception of actions, and how perceptual experience influences action production.  A current fMRI project I am working on (with fellow graduate student Dave Kraemer) uses a Dance Dance Revolution-type game to interrogate such issues using behavioral and neuroimaging measures.

Projects I have recently completed in the Grafton lab have used neuroimaging to investigate changes in brain activity as individuals learned new tasks.  Through one study we sought to quantify the neural signature of the contextual interference (CI) effect while participants learned to perform simple keypress sequences.  Basically put, CI occurs when participants learn a task (such as how to do a cartwheel, roll a kayak, learn foreign vocabulary, etc.) by practicing the task components according to a random schedule, as opposed to practicing the individual components blocked together.  Experiencing CI while learning can be frustrating, but it ultimately leads to better skill retention and transfer.  We are hoping that our inquiry into the neural correlates of CI will help us understand why it happens and possibly how we might exploit the CI phenomena to improve learning of different tasks in school-age children. 

       Another project I recently completed in the Grafton lab quantified longitudinal changes in neural activation when dancers observe complex movement sequences that they have either rehearsed extensively or never before performed.  We were curious to see how experience modulated activity within the action simulation circuits of those who are highly skilled movers, and we found that activity in inferior parietal and ventral premotor regions tracks with dancers’ physical experience and perceived ability to perform complex modern dance movements.

My research background is in language, aging, and gesture observation.  My foray into brain and behavior research began with studying the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon in young and older adult populations.  I did this research with Dr. Deborah Burke at Pomona College in Southern California, where I completed my undergraduate degree.  Following this, I spent a year and a half in the laboratory of Dr. Liz Franz at the University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ.  At Otago, I studied interactions between language and action by using dual task and gesture observation paradigms.


emily.cross -at-


Cross, E. S., Hamilton, A. F. de C., & Grafton, S. T. (in press) Building a simulation de novo: Observation of dance by dancers.  Neuroimage.

Cross, E. S., & Burke, D. M. (2004).  Do alternative names block young and older adults’ retrieval of proper names?  Brain and Langauge, 89, 174-181. 

Website created by Antonia Hamilton. Last updated 12 November 2005.