Laboratory for Psychological Research

Director: Ilona Kovács, Department of General Psychology


The Laboratory for Psychological Research (LPR) has been formed by experts in visual psychophysics and human electrophysiology in January, 2013.

The Sleep Laboratory within LPR at Pázmány Péter Catholic University consists of a bedroom for the subject, a bedroom for the parent, recording supervision and sleeping quarters for the EEG assistant, and a fully equipped bathroom. In order to block external electromagnetic noise, the subject's bedroom has been sealed with a metal knit shielding gasket. For polysomnographic recordings we use a BQ KIT SD LTM 128EXPRESS recording device (2 × 64 channels in master and slave mode, Micromed, Italy) and a Quick Cap 128 EEG cap (in three different sizes) with built-in, passive 128 Ag/AgCl electrodes (Compumedics, Australia). Data saving, visualization and exporting is performed by using the System PlusEvolution software (Micromed, Italy). Sleep EEG methods in our laboratory include full night polysomnography, sleep architecture analysis, leg movement analysis, power spectral analysis of sleep, sleep depth analysis, sleep spindle analysis, brain synchrony analysis, source localization.

The Vision Lab within LPR is a dark-room (to control for light) equipped with computers and a CRT monitor for psychophysical testing, an Eyelink 1000 Plus eye-tracker combined with a stereoscope with cold mirrors and two LCD monitors, NVIDIA 3D shutter-glasses, and a Cambridge Research MKII hardware and software for presenting visual stimuli. We also have a 128 channel EGI NetAmps 400 EEG with caps for both children and adults to record brain activity.

Current topics

BETA (Biological and Experience-based Trajectories in Adolescent brain and cognitive development, supported by the Hungarian National Academy, 2017-2022): Adolescence is the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood. It is marked with physical and psychological changes, and profound structural changes in the brain. This period is considered the second sensitive period in human development after early childhood, when the brain opens up for learning and experience, and it is also very vulnerable for the absence of essential experience, and harmful environmental impact. If we would like to see the next generation to grow into healthy and talented adults, it is absolutely essential to understand the determining factors of this developmental stage. However, science is just as puzzled by teenagers asparents often are! There is no consensus on the role of experience, and the rate of pubertal changes in their abilities. While we are looking at developmental changes as a function of birth date (chronological age), there is very large individual variability in maturity (biological age) related to hormonal alterations. It is not known whether advancement in particular areas of life is linked to these hormonal changes or to the number of years teens had a chance to spend with learning about our world. We offer an entirely new way to ask questions about puberty and to clarify the above issues. We can clearly dissociate biological and experience-dependent factors in human adolescent development by assessing the biological age of a large sample of participants by a newly developed technique that determines their maturity level. By looking at psychological and brain development as a function of maturity versus chronological age, we are be able to provide the currently lacking crucial data on this important "window of opportunity."

Prune it or loose it: Adolescence as a critical period in human development. Supproted by the Hungarian National Science Foundation (OTKA NK 104481, 2013-2016). PI: Ilona Kovács. The project looks at perceptual-, motor- and high level cognitive skills, learning capacities, and the micropattern of sleep in 10 to 21 year old subjects. The main hypothesis is that adolescence is as relevant in brain development as infancy. Those cortical organizational and learning mechanisms are investigated in detail that are assumed to be essential in forming the adult pattern of cortical functioning.

Multilevel investigation of binocular stimulus processing. Supproted by the Hungarian National Science Foundation (OTKA 108747, 2013-2016). PI: Peter Buzas, Medical University of Pécs. In collaboration with Pécs Medical University, we are attempting to establish a comprehensive developmental view of binocular vision that in includes animal single cell electrophysiology and optical imaging, and human VEP and psychophysics. The main hypothesis is that stereoscopic vision is engaging distinct cortical pathways that are common in lower level vertebrates and humans. Screening and therapeutic implications are very relevant in this project.

Dynamic balance of visual perception. Supported by DFG, Germany, PI: Jochen Braun, U. of Magdeburg. Submitted to the Hungarian National Science Foundation (OTKA NN 110466), PI: Ilona Kovacs. This project is an experimental study combined with mathematical modeling of the dynamic balance between stability and sensitivity requirements of human perception, particularly during the adolescent years. The behavioral pardigm is binocular rivalry that is modeled by a dybamic systems model, and data is collected on typically and atypically developing populations.

We are also collaborating on projects with respect to social cognition (U Paris Desacartes) and the percetual aspect of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia (Steven M. Silverstein and Deana Barch, Rutgers U, USA).