The overarching goal of the proposed research is to understand, from a cognitive neuroscience perspective, how information about an event is successfully retrieved from episodic memory. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and event-related potentials (ERPs) will be employed to identify neural activity elicited during the retrieval of experimental items such as words and pictures. One line of experiments will investigate the extent to which retrieval-related activity in the hippocampus selectively supports the recovery of qualitative information about the past. Other experiments will investigate the degree to which retrieval-related activity in different parts of the medial temporal lobe dissociates according to whether associations between items, or items and their contexts, are recollected. A third set of experiments will investigate the generality and functional significance of content-selective, retrieval-related cortical reinstatement effects. A final set of experiments will focus of the functional significance of retrieval-related activity in inferior posterior parietal cortex. These last experiments will take as their starting point the hypothesis that this region supports an 'episodic buffer'that serves as an interface between episodic and working memory, and facilitates conscious access to recollected information. Disabling impairments of episodic memory are prominent in several common neurological conditions, notably Alzheimer's disease and traumatic brain injury. Episodic memory dysfunction is also a significant component of several common psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, episodic memory declines substantially and, relative to other kinds of memory, disproportionately, with increasing age. The proposed research will facilitate the detailed understanding of the neurocognitive processes that support normally-functioning episodic memory, an understanding that is necessary for the elucidation of different kinds of episodic memory disorders and the development of effective therapeutic interventions.
Disabling impairments of episodic memory - memory for unique events - are found in numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions. The proposed research will contribute to the detailed understanding of normally-functioning episodic memory that is necessary if different kinds of episodic memory disorders are to be fully understood and effectively treated.
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