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

Our research leverages a combination of cognitive neuroscience methods and analysis approaches, including behavioral testing, eye-tracking, fMRI (including MVPA and network analyses) and EEG (including time-frequency analyses).

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 representations of items and their significance, and a posterior medial system that supports their integration into a contextual framework. Our research focuses on characterizing these networks by relating their functional interactions to successful encoding and reconstruction of complex events.

How does emotion interact with memory processes??

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. We recently found evidence for the idea that there are dissociable pathways supporting episodic memory for emotional and contextual information, suggesting that emotion might bias memory networks to favor some types of memory representations over others. In another line of research, we are investigating the role of memory processes in mediating cognitive reappraisal, an emotion regulation technique. We want to know whether and how memory reconstruction processes can be leveraged to make emotional memories feel better.

How does the brain represent and reinstate contextual information?

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 reinstatement on episodic memory retrieval, and how these effects change over time and under different retrieval conditions. We are furthermore interested in the inter-related contributions of posterior medial regions to representing different aspects of context.