How do we represent and remember events?

Decades of cognitive neuroscience research has relied on simple lists of words, objects, or scenes to understand how information is processed and retrieved by the brain. However, our experiences are anything but simple. The events making up our lives are multifaceted and complex, and individual items are linked by contextual and situational factors that are difficult to capture in the lab.

Challenge accepted. Using realistic research designs ranging from recall of films to interactive exploration of narratives, we investigate the way memories of complex events are built, stored, and retrieved by the human brain. Current questions of interest include: How do different networks of brain regions represent different components of an event? What determines which aspects of an event are remembered or forgotten? How do we establish networks of associations among event components, and how do these associations change with time and experience?

How is memory impacted by aging?

Many cognitive abilities decline as we age, and memory is particularly impacted. However, many clinical and lab assessments of memory test recognition of arbitrary lists of items. With a growing population of older adults, and a growing proportion of individuals with dementing illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, a real-world-relevant understanding of age-related memory decline is crucial.

We investigate the way older adults represent and remember realistic events, and how this differs from traditional memory measures. Current questions of interest include: Do older adults perceive and recall the structure of events differently from younger adults? Are particular components of events more vulnerable to forgetting than others in older adults? Are certain kinds of memories vulnerable to pathological biomarkers, such as amyloid and tau?


The right tool depends on your question, and your question sometimes pushes your use of the tools available. We believe in an integrative approach, combining behavioral experimentation (recognition, recall, story navigation, etc) with neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI (activation, functional connectivity, pattern analyses, etc) and EEG (ERPs, pattern analyses, etc). Finally, we are starting to delve into the world of computational modeling of behavioral and neural data.