Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
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Laboratory of R. Alison Adcock, M.D., Ph.D.MainPublications
AdcockAdcockAdcock
Research in my laboratory focuses on how motivation shapes neural plasticity, particularly in hippocampal-dependent memory processes. We seek to understand why it is we tend to preferentially remember things we want to remember. We would ultimately like to understand how to engage neuromodulation of memory to promote adaptive (versus maladaptive) beliefs, perceptions and behaviors. We study how changes in brain activity relate to both motivation and memory using functional imaging (FMRI) in healthy individuals and patients. Our initial studies have shown that even before you have an experience (e.g., seeing a picture) that you think is worth remembering, neural markers predict whether or not you're going to remember it. Importantly, these markers include correlated activation of the hippocampus and midbrain neuromodulatory systems, suggesting a biological mechanism for this psychological phenomenon. Using pharmacological and genetic fMRI, we aim to identify and learn to exploit key biological priors for adaptive memory formation. These anticipatory neural responses also raise psychological questions. They call to mind conation, a category of mental process traditionally distinguished from cognition and affect, and comprised of volition, striving and desire. Conation is predictive; it is wishful. Is wishful learning different from fearful learning? From happy learning? My work suggests that we can use FMRI signal, in concert with behavioral testing and physiology, to help us delineate these states. We can then use this understanding to try to drive neuromodulatory systems and enhance learning.

Contact
B253 Levine Science Research Center
919.681.7486
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