Research in my laboratory explores the effects of age and culture on memory and social processes using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral measures.
My research on aging and memory explores age differences in the specificity and accuracy of memory and in the plasticity of the neural resources that subserve memory processes. My previous research demonstrates that older adults can compensate for decreased medial temporal lobe activity by recruiting regions of prefrontal cortex to support encoding. However, age differences occur at the time of recognition in prefrontal regions when contexts interfere with the recognition of studied objects and in widespread brain regions when similar lures must be distinguished from studied pictures. My current work addresses the specificity of memory processes by exploring the extent to which 1) age-related deficits occur due to a failure to engage sensory or controlled processes, and 2) the loss of specificity and compensatory mechanisms documented with age for sensory domains also characterizes social domains, functions that are purportedly preserved with age.
My research on cross-cultural differences compares cognitive and social processes across East Asian and Western cultures. My previous fMRI research demonstrates that culture affects object processing, with Americans engaging object-specific regions to a greater extent than East Asians during the encoding of complex scenes. I have also explored the interaction of culture and aging, a line of work that pits the influence of life experiences and plasticity against neurobiological aging. We’ve identified cultural differences in the use of categories to organize memory for older, but not younger, adults. Our current work continues to address these themes, exploring the specificity of memory processes for cognitive and social domains, using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods. Although cultures may differ across these domains in the specificity of the details encoded into memory, aging is predicted to reduce the specificity of memory processes, thus eliminating cross-cultural differences.