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Advanced Training Institutes Are A Hit - More to Come

At the week-long event, dubbed "Camp fMRI" by participants, Robert Savoy and colleagues at Mass General Hospital Nuclear Magnetic Research Center provided an overview of the science behind fMRI and its application to psychological science.

By Nicolle Singer

The first three of five ATIs planned for 2006 took place in the past month and the Science Directorate is looking forward to the final two ATIs that it will sponsor this year, which will take place in July. Participants were pleased to be in attendance at these long-anticipated programs, and were enthusiastic to delve deeper into their chosen topics with their peers.

Massachusetts General Hospital was once again the site of the popular ATI on functional MRI. Supported by a grant from the National Institute on Mental Health, this ATI series began in 2000, and held its final session in late May. At the week-long event, dubbed "Camp fMRI" by participants, Robert Savoy and colleagues at Mass General Hospital Nuclear Magnetic Research Center provided an overview of the science behind fMRI and its application to psychological science. All participants were currently using fMRI for research projects or had firm plans to begin work in the area, so the pace was quick and interest was intense. The experience included classroom demonstrations, lecture, and lab time with a working scanner. Instructors thoroughly covered topics that will be immediately useful to all participants' research, such as experimental design issues and data analysis methods. On the second day of the program participants were divided into small groups by research area. Each of these groups was then responsible for designing an experiment during the week and presenting their plan for praise and critique on the last day of the program. This experience introduced ATI participants to many of the complexities of design and provided ample time to network with fMRI researchers who share interests.

The next two events of the summer took place in early June. At the University of Virginia, 30 psychologists dedicated a week of their summers to learning the fine points of Structural Equation Modeling. This intensive seminar was well received by the participants, all of whom use or anticipate using SEM in their next research project. Jack McArdle began the seminar by providing an in-depth overview of the principles and practice of SEM, before moving on to increasingly advanced topics. Most participants brought their own data and research problems to the ATI, and all were encouraged to apply the concepts discussed in class to their data in the lab time that was distributed between lectures. Instructors were busy during the computer labs, helping with difficult stats programs and further explaining new concepts. The hands-on nature of this program is one of its huge benefits. Psychologists must often rely upon written text in order to learn new statistics, but having a room full of instructors at hand greatly expedites the learning process.

The third ATI of 2006 focused on learning to use the large, rich dataset developed as a result of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care. Hosted by Research Triangle Institute and the University of North Carolina, this institute provided thorough training on the background and use of the dataset. As a prerequisite to this innovative training program, each researcher must obtain institutional approval for their proposed research project in advance. This preparation provides each participant with an introduction to the dataset, along with a sense of its complexity and value, deepening interest in the lectures and improving the content of discussions. The Study of Early Child Care is designed to answer many questions about the relationships between child care experiences and developmental outcomes. Data collection began in 1991, when the study investigators enrolled 1,364 children at 10 sites across the country. Since then, four waves of data collection have followed more than 1000 of the original children through age 15. The APA ATI orients new users of this massive dataset to the variables it contains and the types of questions that are most readily answered with this type of data. Participants especially enjoyed the SEM and HLM workshops, and having the chance to discuss their research ideas with data and methodology experts. The last two sessions of this ATI will be held in 2007 and 2008.

To learn about the other ATIs planned for this summer, be sure to check the website or email!