Active Studies in Memory and Mood

The research in our lab focuses on how memories are formed and retrieved and how different brain structures are involved in these processes.  Additionally, we are interested in how memory formation and retrieval may change in relation to mood and mood related disorders (such as depression).  We use several different methods to investigate these questions, including computerized behavioral tests, cognitive tests, and brain imaging. Below are descriptions of several research studies related to mood that are ongoing in the lab. If you are interested in participating in one of these studies, please visit our Participate in Studies page.

1. Neural Mechanisms of Emotional Memory Modulation in Major Depression (National Institute of Health, R01 MH102392-01 A1)

Memory impairment is a core endophenotype of major depressive disorder (MDD) and has been has been attributed largely to abnormalities in the hippocampus and amygdala. The hippocampus is critical for declarative memory storage, while the amygdala modulates the strength of emotional memories. A growing literature has provided empirical evidence for the hippocampus’ specific role in pattern separation, a computation by which similar or overlapping memories are made distinct. Pattern separation provides a robust empirical framework for assessing hippocampal function by parametrically varying mnemonic interference. By concurrently manipulating interference and emotional content, this framework can be used to examine amygdala modulation of hippocampal memory. Critically, this novel framework will be applied to subjects with MDD such that abnormalities in various components of the amygdala-hippocampal network can be identified, paving the way to more targeted clinical interventions.  To accomplish our goal, we will use state-of-the-art high-resolution neuroimaging and innovative behavioral methods, which have not been previously applied to MDD.

2. Effects of Prolonged Grief on Neurobiological Systems (Pilot Study)

Prolonged grief has been linked to a range of functional impairments, especially in mothers who experience the passing of their offspring. Complex grief is associated with the development of a number of psychiatric disorders including MDD, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. Additionally, grief is linked to decreased social functioning and an increased rate of physical illness. This pilot study aims to explore the neurobiological systems involved in the grieving brain using structural and functional MRI as well as diffusion imaging and neuropsychological testing. Outcomes of this study can lead to a greater understanding of the impact of prolonged grief on memory and other neurobiological systems and may pave the way for future interventions for the management of grief.


If you are interested in participating in one of these studies, please visit our Participate in Studies page for details and our contact information.