Sargent gains ground with volunteers

Jesse Sargent, associate professor of psychology, has been at FMU for nine years. Before obtaining his doctoral degree in psychology, Sargent went through a phase in which he wanted to be a rock star. However, after gaining experience as a psychology research assistant, curiosity struck and he hung up his guitar.

Following Sargent’s first-hand research experience, he began to think more frequently about the underlying processes of consciousness and cognition. Having already received his bachelor’s in psychology, he decided to move forward in his career by pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience.

As an experimental cognitive psychologist, Sargent is currently research-ing spatial cognition and memory. His interest in this research includes human organization, storage and manipulation of mental representations of spatial locations on both larger, environmental scales and smaller, figural scales.

Sargent collects behavioral and electrophysiological data from younger and older adults in the hope to better understand how the human brain segments time and the grouping of visuospatial information. The data should reveal how these processes could affect our memory capacity as we age.

This semester, Sargent had plans to visit older adults within the community residing in residential assisted-living facilities to expand his research data. However, given the COVID-19 pandemic, access to a broader range of volunteers at the moment is not possible. Nonetheless, each semester, a small group of students with interests in psychology participate Sargent’s lab. The research lab consists of articles discussed in weekly lab meetings, as well as the training of research assistants to manage participants in ongoing behavioral and electroencephalography (EEG) studies.

By using EEG, Sargent can collect and review electrical signals transmitted from the brain while volunteers participate in memory tasks. In turn, this allows him to identify brain waves that correspond to certain behavioral tasks and functions.

“It’s a combination of looking at behavior and physiology, and it’s putting these things together that make what I do cognitive neuroscience,” Sargent said. “So, it’s not just looking at physiology and brain waves, and looking at behavior, it is looking at them in conjunction with each other, creating a much more powerful method for understanding how brains work.”

Conclusively, data is examined and interpreted with an eye toward designing subsequent experiments and shaping the future of the research program.

Current volunteers are students in introductory psychology courses who have signed up as participants in exchange for extra credit toward their final grade in a course. Participating in psychology research allows students to learn about the processes of conducting real research, as well as making a meaningful contribution to what we know about cognition.

“Without volunteers, there’s no research,” Sargent said. “They are more than just guinea pigs. Our volunteers are critical, important and valued collaborators in my research enterprise. I am very appreciative of anyone who participates in our research.”

Throughout the remainder of the semester, FMU students are encouraged to volunteer. Anyone interested in learning more about spatial cognition and memory can contact Sargent at and should include their name and school email address in the message.

Also, it is necessary to mention that Sargent found a way to continue his rock star ambitions and is in a band called Yelodrama with a few other professors. Be on the lookout, Yelodrama could be world-famous within a few years.