Episodic memory – the memory for our everyday life experiences – defines who we are. However, episodic memories are not literal reproductions of things past, but rather reassembled from constituent parts into a whole that is reminiscent of the original event. Recently, evidence has emerged showing that this same system also underpins planning for the future and imagining hypothetical events.
I investigate the mechanisms that underlie the reconstructive process of episodic memory recall, how they also support constructive processes such as imagination and future thinking, and why they breakdown in disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia. My work systematically connecting imagination with episodic memory for the first time was included in the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2007 in the annual list compiled by Science.
More generally, I am also interested in knowledge representation, including probing the ensemble structure of hippocampal memories with high-res fMRI and multivariate pattern analysis techniques. In addition I examine implicit memory and adaptation effects using the ventral visual stream as a model system and contrast it with explicit memory and consolidation. Stemming from my experiences as a computer scientist, I am excited by the quest for a better systems-level understanding of the mind as a path to new algorithms and approaches to general artificial intelligence. See my recent commentary in Nature for more: Is the brain a good model for machine intelligence?