Welcome to the Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Lab
Department of Psychology, Villanova University
Much of the research ongoing in our lab aims to understand the cognitive architecture and neural bases of human memory. Combining cognitive neuroscientific, neuropsychological, and behavioral approaches, the goals of our research program are: (1) to understand the cognitive mechanisms and neural bases that support semantic memory (i.e., general world knowledge, such as “a hammer is a tool”) and episodic memory (i.e., memory for personally experienced events, such as “I dropped a hammer on my toe last night”), and (2) to elucidate the interactions between these long-term memory systems. Semantic memory: Our work in semantic memory focuses on the organization and retrieval of conceptual information. Specifically, we are interested in understanding how everyday object concepts (e.g., apple) are represented in our minds and brains. Is our knowledge about the world represented as abstract factoids, or is it represented as a function of how we learn and use the information? Once the information is retrieved, how do we go about selecting what’s relevant and ignoring what’s irrelevant? Episodic memory: It is well established that damage to the medial temporal lobes result in dense amnesia, characterized by a profound impairment in episodic learning and relatively preserved semantic memory. Thus, the amnesic syndrome, though rare, is considered as the classic presentation of episodic memory disruption. Although the behavioral profile of amnesia (i.e., selective impairment in episodic memory) is well established, the cognitive mechanisms that underlie such a deficit are less well defined. This line of research is aimed to better characterize episodic memory processes by understanding how neurological insults impact this memory system. Interactions: Much of current research on human memory focuses on identifying and defining distinct memory sub-systems (e.g., semantic memory, episodic memory, and working memory). This line of research focuses on how different long-term memory systems interact and complement one another. The main questions of interest are: What is the role of prior knowledge in episodic learning? In other words, in what way does pre-existing knowledge (i.e., semantic memory) enhance or disrupt new learning (i.e., episodic memory)? Relatedly, what is the role of autobiographical/episodic information in semantic retrieval? That is, in what way does personal relevance impact our ability to retrieve previously stored general world knowledge? To address these questions, we use a combination of neuropsychological and cognitive aging approaches. If you are interested in finding out more about our research program, please contact us by following this link.
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