University of Cambridge
My research concerns how our memory works. I use techniques that allow us to look at brain activity as our volunteers try to remember things in the laboratory. At most times, I instruct them to form links between several pieces of information, such as pictures of two different objects (e.g., an apple and a bus). Then, after a while, I ask them to bring these links back to mind, and see if and how they remember them.
There are several ways by which such links can be formed. The formation of these links can rely on previous knowledge we have. If, for example, I eat an apple whenever I take the bus to work, I can use this information to help me form the link between an image of an apple and that of a bus. I can also use my imagination to create a joint representation of the two items, such as an apple-shaped bus. Alternatively, I can link these images by thinking of them as two separate components of one episode, for example, driving a bus to get to an apple orchard.
In my experiments, I examine how the brain operates when information is linked using different ways. If, when using different ways to link information, the brain regions that are activated are different, or even if the same brain regions are being activated but the way they communicate with one another differs, we can conclude that different processes are being used. And indeed, we see that the way by which several pieces of information are linked, affects how our brain works when we try to remember these links.
A deeper knowledge of the memory processes that are involved in the formation and retrieval of such links is important for understanding how we can promote learning in educational settings. It can also enhance our understanding of memory impairments and rehabilitation following neurological damage, disease or even healthy ageing.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)