In the Memory Modulation Lab, we use the tools of cognitive neuroscience to answer questions about memory and the brain, such as:

Our research incorporates a combination of cognitive neuroscience methods, including fMRI (multivariate pattern analysis, functional connectivity, high-resolution imaging, etc.) and EEG (time-frequency analysis).


Recent research highlights


Brain networks supporting episodic memory (SFN 2018)
Contextual reinstatement & emotional memory (SFN 2017)
Neural dynamics of context-guided retrieval (SFN 2017)
Stress affects recent memories by acting as a mnemonic filter

How does the brain make and maintain memories?


For several decades, research on the neural basis of memory has focused on the medial temporal lobes (MTL), including the hippocampus and its surrounding cortical areas. MTL regions appear to play different roles in memory, but are typically described as an integrated system apart from other cortical systems. Yet, different MTL regions reliably engage with distinct cortical networks, and these networks appear to play a role in many cognitive functions, not just memory. Based on these observations, we have argued that memory function can be best understood as arising from distinct yet interacting cortico-hippocampal systems: an anterior temporal system that supports item memory and a posterior medial system that supports context memory. Our research focuses on characterizing these networks by measuring functional interactions between MTL regions and other cortical areas and by relating these interactions to successful memory formation and retrieval of complex events.

How do emotional experiences modulate learning and retention?


Memories for emotional experiences are more durable than neutral memories, but not all aspects of memory are enhanced. For example, emotional arousal reliably enhances item memory but not necessarily memory for the surrounding context. One possible reason for these memory differences is that the mechanisms of emotional arousal affect cortico-hippocampal systems in different ways. In other words, emotion might push around memory systems to favor some types of memory representations over others. We recently tested this hypothesis by imaging the amygdala and hippocampus at high resolution, finding that there are dissociable pathways supporting episodic memory for emotional and contextual information.

How does the context of an individual moment shape its representation in memory?


Context plays a crucial role in guiding how an individual moment will be remembered. Memories encoded in the same context elicit more similar neural patterns than memories encoded in different contexts, but this context "code" appears to differ between brain regions and even within subregions of the hippocampus. We are currently investigating the effects of contextual binding and reinstatement on episodic memory retrieval. How do parallel streams of contextual information become integrated over time? Under what conditions does context reinstatement help or even hurt memory accuracy? And finally, how do posterior medial regions interact to support different aspects of context representation?