I received my PhD from Carnegie Mellon University, studying with Jay McClelland, on the development of computational models of memory. I applied the principles of this computational approach to amnesia research and early studies using functional MRI during my postdoctoral research into memory with Larry Squire at the University of California at San Diego. Much of my research has focused on the dynamic network of structures in the medial temporal lobe to support semantic and episodic memories. During my first faculty position at The Johns Hopkins University, I developed high-resolution functional MRI to investigate activity of hippocampal subfields in pattern separation.
After moving to the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California at Irvine, I continued to develop high-resolution imaging techniques, including high-resolution diffusion tensor imaging to evaluate the integrity of white matter tracts feeding into and out of the hippocampus. I have applied these techniques to studies of memory decline associated with aging and early forms of dementia, as well as the other end of the memory spectrum, in those individuals with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. By exploring the dynamics of these brain regions, we can gain a better understanding of how they interact to support new learning and the retrieval of existing memories.
I am motivated by questions like what are the roles of the subfields of the hippocampus and how are they affected in healthy aging? How does the process of pattern separation contribute to the encoding and retrieval of different kinds of information? What brain changes and behaviors can discriminate between healthy aging and early changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease? Can we use false memories as “memory illusions” to understand the neural basis of memory as visual illusions helped us understand the neural basis of visual processing? What neural, cognitive, and personality factors contribute to extreme memory performance?