skip to main content

Abstract In this paper, we present results from an experiment using EEG to measure brain activity and explore EEG frequency power associated with gender differences of professional industrial designers while performing two prototypical stages of constrained and open design tasks, problem-solving and design sketching. Results indicate no main effect of gender. However, among other main effects, a consistent main effect of hemisphere for the six frequency bands under analysis was found. In the problem-solving stage, male designers show higher alpha and beta bands in channels of the prefrontal cortices and female designers in the right occipitotemporal cortex and secondary visual cortices. In the design sketching stage, male designers show higher alpha and beta bands in the right prefrontal cortex, and female designers in the right temporal cortex and left prefrontal cortex, where higher theta is also found. Prioritising different cognitive functions seem to play a role in each gender's approach to constrained and open design tasks. Results can be useful to design professionals, students and design educators, and for the development of methodological approaches in design research and education.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the Design Society
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Boujet, J-F (Ed.)
    Design space is a common abstraction in design research used in the investigation of design cognition. Although its usefulness has been alleged and has contributed to the knowledge about designing, characteristics and properties of design spaces and how they change while designing are underexplored. Creativity has been recognized as an essential skill for changing the design space from constrained to open spaces. We analyzed the brain activity of designers while performing constrained and open design tasks. This study investigates the neurophysiological activations of professional mechanical engineers and industrial designers in two prototypical design tasks, a problem-solving constrained layout task and an open design sketching task. The analysis focused on comparing the neurophysiological activations of the cognitive demand in three stages of categorical similarity of designing in constrained and open design spaces. Results indicate significant differences of frequency bands activations between stages of the design spaces across and between domains. In particular, the stage of reflecting evoked visual imagination and associative reasoning modes and revealed significant differences in beta bands from the problem-solving stage leading to expanded activation in the sketching stage, which translates in higher activation in the open design task with significant differences in upper alpha and beta bands. We propose the neurophysiological activations as a measure of the pliability of design spaces. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The transition from childhood to adolescence is associated with an influx of sex hormones, which not only facilitates physical and behavioral changes, but also dramatic changes in neural circuitry. While previous work has shown that pubertal hormones modulate structural and functional brain development, few of these studies have focused on the impact that such hormones have on spontaneous cortical activity, and whether these effects are modulated by sex during this critical developmental window. Herein, we examined the effect of endogenous testosterone on spontaneous cortical activity in 71 typically‐developing youth (ages 10–17 years; 32 male). Participants completed a resting‐state magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recording, structural MRI, and provided a saliva sample for hormone analysis. MEG data were source‐reconstructed and the power within five canonical frequency bands (delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma) was computed. The resulting power spectral density maps were analyzed via vertex‐wise ANCOVAs to identify spatially specific effects of testosterone and sex by testosterone interactions, while covarying out age. We found robust sex differences in the modulatory effects of testosterone on spontaneous delta, beta, and gamma activity. These interactions were largely confined to frontal cortices and exhibited a stark switch in the directionality of the correlation from the low (delta) to high frequencies (beta/gamma). For example, in the delta band, greater testosterone related to lower relative power in prefrontal cortices in boys, while the reverse pattern was found for girls. These data suggest testosterone levels are uniquely related to the development of spontaneous cortical dynamics during adolescence, and such levels are associated with different developmental patterns in males and females within regions implicated in executive functioning.

    more » « less
  3. The current study examined the neural correlates of spatial rotation in eight engineering undergraduates. Mastering engineering graphics requires students to mentally visualize in 3D and mentally rotate parts when developing 2D drawings. Students’ spatial rotation skills play a significant role in learning and mastering engineering graphics. Traditionally, the assessment of students’ spatial skills involves no measurements of neural activity during student performance of spatial rotation tasks. We used electroencephalography (EEG) to record neural activity while students performed the Revised Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Visualization of Rotations (Revised PSVT:R). The two main objectives were to 1) determine whether high versus low performers on the Revised PSVT:R show differences in EEG oscillations and 2) identify EEG oscillatory frequency bands sensitive to item difficulty on the Revised PSVT:R.  Overall performance on the Revised PSVT:R determined whether participants were considered high or low performers: students scoring 90% or higher were considered high performers (5 students), whereas students scoring under 90% were considered low performers (3 students). Time-frequency analysis of the EEG data quantified power in several oscillatory frequency bands (alpha, beta, theta, gamma, delta) for comparison between low and high performers, as well as between difficulty levels of the spatial rotation problems.   Although we did not find any significant effects of performance type (high, low) on EEG power, we observed a trend in reduced absolute delta and gamma power for hard problems relative to easier problems. Decreases in delta power have been reported elsewhere for difficult relative to easy arithmetic calculations, and attributed to greater external attention (e.g., attention to the stimuli/numbers), and consequently, reduced internal attention (e.g., mentally performing the calculation). In the current task, a total of three spatial objects are presented. An example rotation stimulus is presented, showing a spatial object before and after rotation. A target stimulus, or spatial object before rotation is then displayed. Students must choose one of five stimuli (multiple choice options) that indicates the correct representation of the object after rotation. Reduced delta power in the current task implies that students showed greater attention to the example and target stimuli for the hard problem, relative to the moderate and easy problems. Therefore, preliminary findings suggest that students are less efficient at encoding the target stimuli (external attention) prior to mental rotation (internal attention) when task difficulty increases.  Our findings indicate that delta power may be used to identify spatial rotation items that are especially challenging for students. We may then determine the efficacy of spatial rotation interventions among engineering education students, using delta power as an index for increases in internal attention (e.g., increased delta power). Further, in future work, we will also use eye-tracking to assess whether our intervention decreases eye fixation (e.g., time spent viewing) toward the target stimulus on the Revised PSVT:R. By simultaneously using EEG and eye-tracking, we may identify changes in internal attention and encoding of the target stimuli that are predictive of improvements in spatial rotation skills among engineering education students.  
    more » « less
  4. This research paper examines the patterns of inter-brain synchrony among engineering student teams and the relationship between inter-brain synchrony and team cooperation and performance. A pilot study was conducted with eight two-person teams of fourth-year undergraduate civil engineering students. Three collaborative design and build tasks were assigned to each team. Two independent raters carried out the behavioral analysis, scoring team cooperation. Each team member wore a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) device to measure inter-brain synchrony during the tasks. The results showed that inter-brain synchrony occurred during the team task, but the patterns varied between groups and tasks. Elevated levels of inter-brain synchrony were observed in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The left VLPFC and left DLPFC are often associated with cognitive processes such as problem-solving, working memory, decision-making, and coordinated verbal exchange. Inter-brain synchrony was positively correlated with task performance and cooperation when teams were asked to design and build a structure given limited time and money but negatively correlated with cooperation and performance on other more open-ended design sketching tasks. The study’s findings suggest that inter-brain synchrony exists when engineering students work together as a team, but the results are inconsistent between task types. Inter-brain synchrony could be a useful metric for measuring team cooperation and performance, particularly in tasks that require coordinated verbal exchange, problemsolving, and decision-making. However, the study’s small sample size limits the generalizability of the results. Future studies with a larger sample size and more diverse groups of engineers are needed to validate the findings and explore their implications further. 
    more » « less
  5. This paper describes a group-level classification of 14 patients with prefrontal cortex (pFC) lesions from 20 healthy controls using multi-layer graph convolutional networks (GCN) with features inferred from the scalp EEG recorded from the encoding phase of working memory (WM) trials. We first construct undirected and directed graphs to represent the WM encoding for each trial for each subject using distance correlation- based functional connectivity measures and differential directed information-based effective connectivity measures, respectively. Centrality measures of betweenness centrality, eigenvector centrality, and closeness centrality are inferred for each of the 64 channels from the brain connectivity. Along with the three centrality measures, each graph uses the relative band powers in the five frequency bands - delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma- as node features. The summarized graph representation is learned using two layers of GCN followed by mean pooling, and fully connected layers are used for classification. The final class label for a subject is decided using majority voting based on the results from all the subject's trials. The GCN-based model can correctly classify 28 of the 34 subjects (82.35% accuracy) with undirected edges represented by functional connectivity measure of distance correlation and classify all 34 subjects (100% accuracy) with directed edges characterized by effective connectivity measure of differential directed information. 
    more » « less