About our Research
Working memory is the ability to mentally maintain and manipulate information in the service of cognitive function. It has been described as our mental workspace, and there are many different theoretical models attempting to characterize its basic properties. Our research seeks to adjudicate between these models, and to better understand how working memory contributes to various mental abilities. To acheive this goal, we use both traditional behavioral experiments as well as functional brain imaging techniques which can reveal how different brain structures support basic working memory mechanisms. Using these approaches together allows us to constrain our understanding of working memory.
There is evidence that we use working memory to mentally highlight goals and intentions so that they can guide our choice of behaviors. This ability is often referred to as "cognitive control." We use this executive capacity to maintain, integrate, and transform mental representations, and to thereby select one behavioral response over another potentially more automatic one, while avoiding interference from sources of distraction. Our research efforts are specifically directed at exploring the link between working memory and cognitive control, and at showing how cognitive control mechanisms can influence decision-making behavior.
There are three big questions which our research seeks to address:
- What are the neural substrates/mechanisms of working memory?
What is working memory, and which theoretical framework best explains the relevant pychological and neuroscientific findings?
What are the neural substrates of WM, and how are they affected by sources of interference?
Is working memory capacity malleable?
- What is the relationship between cognitive control and working memory?
What are the shared neural correlates of WM and cognitive control?
Where/How are goals represented and maintained in the brain?
Are cognitive control mechanisms domain general?
- How does the developing cognitive control system come to influence behavior?
How do working memory mechanisms influence decision-making?
Why do adolescents tend to make risky decisions in the presence of their peers?