Although humans encounter countless novel experiences, many of these are not retained. This leads to an important question: Why are some experiences remembered, while others are forgotten? My research focuses on neural and behavioural factors that are associated with how we form and retain episodic memories. A branch of this research explores how episodic memory varies across individuals. More specifically, I investigate the factors that relate to being a relatively ‘good’ versus ‘poor’ rememberer and the underlying neural correlates of this variability in healthy people and individuals exposed to traumatic events. I approach this topic in a multifaceted manner, combining structural and functional neuroimaging with genetic techniques. Moreover, my collaborators and I recently launched an online memory survey (click here) to explore individual differences in memory.
The observation that humans remember some experiences better than others leads to a second question: What is the adaptive value of memory? Preliminary research suggests that remembering our past does not just service memory in its own right, it is also critical to our ability to predict and make decisions about future outcomes. I am currently seeking to better understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms by which memory may influence non-mnemonic functions, with a primary focus on decision-making. One approach to this question is to examine the functional consequences of memory loss in amnesic patients who have sustained damage to the medial temporal lobes (MTL). This line of work is being pursued in my postdoctoral research, through the Boston University School of Medicine within the Memory Disorders Research Center at the Veterans Affair Boston Healthcare System.
As much of my research focuses on the MTL, I am also interested in methodology related to anatomical segmentation and labeling of these structures on MRI. I am part of a recent initiative to harmonize hippocampal and MTL cortical regions on high-resolution MRI at the level of hippocampal subfields. Improvement of this methodology has far reaching implications for characterizing the functional neuroanatomy of these structures.