principal investigator

Roger Beaty, PhD

My research broadly aims to understand how the brain flexibly combines information to generate solutions to complex problems. To this end, I study cognitive and neural systems that support creative thinking and related cognitive processes, as well as individual differences related to these cognitive abilities. Recent fMRI research examining brain networks underlying individual creative thinking ability was funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, and extensions of this work to the domain of scientific creativity is currently funded by the National Science Foundation.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts in psychology at Temple University, I earned my PhD in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), working with Paul Silvia. I completed my postdoctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at Harvard University, working with Daniel Schacter. I joined the Department of Psychology at Penn State University as an assistant professor in the Fall of 2018.

CV | Google Scholar | ResearchGate

graduate student

Hannah Merseal



I received my B.A. in Psychology and Music from Wheaton College in 2019, with concentrations in cognitive psychology and music theory. I have worked on projects relating to neural entrainment to the beat of music at Wheaton, UConn, and Tufts. My research interests are centered in musical improvisation, particularly as it relates to motor planning and the performers' understanding of functional harmony and syntax. Fun fact: my undergraduate honors thesis was a postmodernist composition for symphony orchestra.

Research Associates

James Lloyd-Cox



I completed a BSc in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Bristol, before later taking an MSc in computational neuroscience at the University of Birmingham (both in the UK). For a number of years I’ve been very interested in creativity as a major component of flexible, adaptive intelligence. I believe a clearer understanding of how brain regions interact in different tasks requiring creativity could lead to new methods of enhancing it, and potentially to new ways to build further flexibility into artificial cognitive systems.

I’m very excited to be part of the new CNCL here at Penn State!

Yvette Graveline



I research mind-wandering and dreaming, and links between memory and imagination, at both cognitive and neural levels. I received my Master's degree in Cognitive Psychology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where I demonstrated a connection between mind-wandering, mental time travel, and scene construction with Dr. Kalina Christoff, and a B.Sc in Psychology from The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Prior to entering the world of wakefulness, I spent time in various sleep labs (e.g., Stickgold Lab at Harvard Medical School and the Wamsley Lab at Furman University) investigating the neural bases of dreaming and sleep-related memory processing. Outside the lab, I enjoy film, music, coffee, traveling, learning new instruments, and attempting to pet other peoples' adorable animals.

visiting scholar

Qunlin Chen, PhD



I am a visiting scholar in the CNCL at Penn State. I am interested in the cognitive and neural mechanisms of creative thinking, the ability to generate novel ideas in the process of problem solving, and innovative actions within naturalistic contexts. My current research is focused on examining domain-general and domain-specific mechanisms of creative thinking, using behavioral and neuroimaging methods to map common and distinct personality networks, and characterizing brain networks associated with creative performance.

Undergraduate research assistants

Heather Olson




I am a sophomore student majoring in psychology with a focus in life sciences. I am very passionate about mental health and intend to pursue a career in clinical psychology after graduate school! Outside of the lab, I am a Bunton Waller fellow and I am also involved in the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and the Sunny State Random Acts of Kindness Club.

Andrea Toro




I am a Junior at Penn State. My major is Psychology B.S. with a focus on Neuroscience and a Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS) minor. I am interested in cognitive psychology because of how research findings can aid people whose cognitive abilities have been damaged.