image: Psychology Logo
image: Psychology Logo
image: UW - Madison Logo
image: Psychology Logo

What is memory for? How does it work? What does it do? These questions are, and have always been, central to psychology precisely because memory is central to our mental life as human beings. Without it we wouldn’t be able to speak, we wouldn’t know our birthday or age, we would be surprised every time we looked in a mirror… Life “without memory” has been summed up by renowned amnesic patient H.M. as one in which every waking moment is “like waking up from a dream.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison boasts considerable strength and breadth in the study of memory. In the Department of Psychology,

Maryellen MacDonald has carefully considered the correlation between individual differences in working memory “capacity” and many types of language processing, and questions the assumption that the former is a cognitive primitive that enables language functions. Instead, she and her colleagues propose that working memory abilities and language abilities both emerge from the same interaction of biological and experiential factors. Her laboratory uses eye tracking and behavioral measures in studies of normal populations, those with developmental language impairments, and aging and neuropathology.

Brad Postle (whose PhD thesis, incidentally, centered on studies conducted with H.M.) and his research team study the interrelations of working memory, attention, general fluid intelligence, and cognitive control. They use experimental psychological, neuroimaging (i.e., fMRI), neuropsychological, and neurodisruptive (i.e., rTMS) approaches.

Tim Rogers has coauthored the book Semantic Cognition, a “groundbreaking monograph [that] offers a mechanistic theory of the representation and use of semantic knowledge”. His research in this domain incorporates connectionist modeling, the study of patients with memory disorders (particularly, semantic dementia and related neurodegenerative diseases), and neuroimaging.

Vanessa Simmering studies developmental changes in memory, focusing on visuo-spatial working memory in early childhood. She conducts her research from a dynamic systems perspective, therefore emphasizing issues of embodiment and situated cognition in development. Her research incorporates basic behavioral methods with dynamic neural field modeling to explore how working memory could be implemented in a real-time neural system and what potential developmental mechanisms arise in such a system.

Faculty and graduate students who study memory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have access to outstanding resources to investigate memory, its impairments, and its brain bases, including collaboration with many other labs on campus. Here is a sample of other laboratories and resources on the UW-Madison campus that focus on memory research:


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