Fun and Games: A Cognitive Neuroscience Student Looks at How Expertise and Personality Function in the World of Esports

Daisy Reyes (Credit: The Graduate Center/Coralie Carlson)

Daisy Reyes, a second-year student in the M.S. Program in Cognitive Neuroscience, is doing first-hand research in the world of esports — competitions involving multiplayer video games — specifically by taking a close look at players who compete on teams. She presented a poster on her thesis at last January’s CUNY Games Conference, and is part of the Esports and Game Design Collective at Hunter College, which supports affordable education and the games industry.
Reyes plays videogames herself, but emphasizes that she is not a professional. She recently took a break from working in the lab of her mentor —  Robert Duncan (GC/York; Psychology, Biology/Behavioral Sciences), a neuroscientist who focuses on neurodegenerative visual disorders and is currently studying game-based learning — to talk to The Graduate Center about her research.
GC: What are you currently working on?
Reyes: I’m interested in the neural correlates of expertise as it relates to education and esports. My experiment focuses on how personality and cohesion interact with one another to affect performance. To do that, we’re looking at neurological measures of stress — like heart rate, heart rate variability, and oxygen saturation.
There are two types of cohesion that we’re focusing on: task cohesion and social cohesion. Task cohesion is more goal-oriented, and social cohesion is more community-oriented and supportive.
GC: How did you get interested in this topic?
Reyes: I started out at John Jay College. I wanted to become a lawyer at first, but then I took a psychology course. My parents always said, “You have to be a lawyer, or you have to be a doctor.” But from that point on, I studied cognitive psychology.
And I saw there was this whole field. And I was interested in esports — and how people in esports experience stress. There’s a lot of competition, and they have the chance of winning thousands of dollars.
We’re measuring stress and levels of cohesion in individuals who are working as part of a team. That’s hard to measure with other types of people who work in teams, like firefighters and police officers. And if you look at stress in athletes, the physiological measures reflect exercise. We realized esports provided a way to measure stress within members of a team without running into that problem.

Daisy Reyes at The Graduate Center 
GC: What is next for you?
Reyes: I’m applying to the Ph.D. program in cognitive neuroscience. Right now I’m finishing my study, and I have to analyze the data and finish with my thesis so I can graduate in the spring. I hope to continue in Robert Duncan’s lab. I feel like I’ve learned a lot not just at The Graduate Center, but throughout all of CUNY.
GC: Do you have any advice for potential students?
Reyes: Do what you love, because in the end, it’s not just about money — it’s all about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. So, you might as well try to find a field that you’re interested in, and devote your life to that.
GC: Are your parents okay, then, that you’re becoming a cognitive neuroscientist, and not a doctor or lawyer?
Reyes: Yes, they’re very happy about it! They’ve always been supportive, and they’re happy that I’m happy with what I’m doing.

Submitted on: FEB 4, 2020

Category: Cognitive Neuroscience | Diversity | GCstories | General GC News | Student News