We continually experience novel events in our everyday lives. While memory for some events can last a lifetime, others are quickly forgotten. My research seeks to understand how and why distinct time periods after the encoding of new information contribute to long-term memory retention.
The reactivation of neural representations of past experience is a leading candidate mechanism thought to support memory retention. While reactivation was mostly studied in animal models, in prior work, I found evidence for spontaneous memory reactivation during awake rest periods in humans using fMRI. Reactivation manifests both at the level of representations within individual brain regions (e.g. the hippocampus) as well as in systems-level hippocampal-cortical interactions. I have also causally tested the role of awake reactivation via behavioral approaches (cued memory reactivation) to enhance memory and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to interfere with reactivation. Together, this work reveals that reactivation during awake time periods plays an important role in supporting memory retention. Future work in the lab seeks to more broadly understand the nature of mechanisms that support memory retention. For example, what kinds of awake brain states are optimal for supporting consolidation and retention? Which post-encoding manipulations are most effective in enhancing or impairing memory? How does awake reactivation interact with memory consolidation during sleep to ultimately support memory retention?