Mentor: Dr. Michael Mack
Our ability to learn, reason, and remember often go hand-in-hand. However, scientific research has largely treated them as independent abilities with separate brain systems. More recent cognitive neuroscience findings suggest otherwise—the same brain regions known to support memory, like the hippocampus, also play a role in new learning. In this project, we will explore the hypothesis that our abilities to learn, reason, and remember in complex tasks are tightly interconnected.
Many participants will be recruited to complete an online battery of learning, memory, and reasoning tasks. Participants’ abilities in each of these tasks will be characterized with standard measures of performance as well as several state-of-the-art computational models of human learning and memory. We will use a combination of sophisticated data analytics and visualization to identify important relationships between individuals’ ability to learn, remember, and reason. Understanding how these key aspects of cognition depend on each other and play independent roles will motivate new theories for how mental activity arises from a coordinated interplay of multiple brain systems.
In completing this project, you will gain key skills in experimental design, data management, big data analysis, advanced statistics, and computational modelling. Don’t worry if all of this is new to you, the fun will be in learning how to make this project a reality and we will be there to help with every step!
Way too much of scientific research is shrouded in mystery for budding scientists. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is making the mysterious real and there’s no better way to do that than mentoring eager and brilliant students. My mentoring and teaching mantra is “learn by doing”; to this end, I involve students at all stages in all aspects of research from designing experiments to data analysis and write up. Given that my research focuses on understanding how our prior knowledge shapes what we learn from new experiences, I highly value working with researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds. The SROP is an amazing opportunity to support such young scientists who will undoubtedly impact the scientific community and society.