Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Jeremy Caplan Abstract

Linking brain activity and behaviour:
Memory for associations and lists

Memory for structured information like pairs of items (e.g., SALT-PEPPER) or lists (e.g., the alphabet) are critical for human functioning. Understanding the behavioural and neural basis of such function requires multiple approaches.

I present one path through an integrative research programme. In particular, behavioural data and cognitive modelling suggested that memory for both associations and lists rely on the same cognitive processes. Electroencephalographic brain activity data recorded during this behaviour lends further support to this notion when viewed by conventional analysis methods. However, a multivariate analysis of the brain-behaviour correlation reveals study-related activity that appears specialized for list memory. Thus, cognitive neurophysiology findings challenge cognitive theory in ways that were not evident with a purely behavioural approach.

A separate study connects associative memory in rats to associative memory in humans. Human brain activity as measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging reveals two distinct functional networks that allow participants to learn conflicting information but each relying on a different neuromodulatory system. One functional network involves the basal forebrain, paralleling findings from rats.

These examples illustrate how a research programme linking brain activity and behavioural models and experiments can not only inform the component fields of study, but the process of connecting disparate fields itself can lead to insights into brain activity, behaviour and the human experience.


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