Amy McDonnell is a second year doctoral student in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Utah. She works in the Applied Cognition Lab researching the effect of being in nature on your brain. Amy and her research team use electroencephalography (EEG) to search for a neural biomarker of the so-called “nature effect”. To do so, they bring participants on 5 day camping trips in southern Utah and record brain activity while participants complete various cognitive tasks.
Amy has a background in clinical mental health research and worked as a wilderness therapy guide in southern Utah before attending graduate school. Her work in wilderness therapy and experience on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015 inspired her to study nature and its impact on human cognition, emotion, and brain functioning. She is ultimately interested in exploring the neurological benefits of spending time in nature as a way to encourage the use of wilderness as a place for peace, healing, and restoration.