Mentor: Dr. Nicole Anderson
Autobiographical memory is poor for our early years; we recall few events from our first three years of life, and memory for events occurring between the ages of 4 and 7 is spotty. This Òchildhood amnesiaÓ has been attributed to various sources. The hippocampus is not developed sufficiently in those early years to support facile retention. Autobiographical memory requires cognitive selfhood (these events happened to “me”), which does not begin to develop until about two years of age. Finally, neurogenesis in the hippocampus during these years contributes to the high rates of forgetting. We propose that early life trauma may hasten development of cognitive selfhood and interfere with neurogenesis, thereby diminishing childhood amnesia. For this study, we will recruit a group of survivors of early childhood trauma (war) and a group of matched controls. We will administer cognitive tests, including tests of episodic and semantic memory, assessments of post-traumatic stress disorder and related clinical conditions, and a modified Autobiographical Interview (Levine et al., 2002), asking people to describe two events (one negative, one neutral) from three time periods: 0-3, 4-7, and last year. We will score the transcripts of these memories for episodic and semantic detail, as well as for self-event connections, as a function of group, valence, and presence of current PTSD, using analysis of variance. This research has the potential to dramatically change our understanding of individual differences in episodic memory development. The SROP student will help with participant recruitment, testing, and data management and analysis.
My mentorship goal is to facilitate studentsÕ development into independent investigators, at each step along that journey, from very first time in a lab, to landing a job. I have an open door (or, in these days, open email/Zoom!) policy, and have weekly individual meetings with my trainees, as well as lab meetings. The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest (where my lab it) also has a robust Research Training Centre, which includes training workshops and talks over the summer. I joined this program because I believe anyone with a passion for psychological science deserves to gain the experience they need to meet their goals, and because Canadian psychological science will be better if it is advanced by a population of scientists that reflects the Canadian population itself.