The Connected Memory Lab is happy to report that we have been awarded a large research grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to study how memories are stored in the brain using 7T imaging. More detail below!
When we remember events, we often bring to mind the specific location in which that event took place, often in vivid detail. These mental images are not usually single snapshots, like photographs, but something more integrated and flexible, where we can imagine different viewpoints, the spatial layout of an environment, and the relationship between objects.
At the moment, we know very little about how the human brain transforms the scenes we see around us into the coherent events the make up our everyday memories. One of the reasons for this is that the brain system thought to support this function - the hippocampus - is difficult to scan using conventional brain imaging methods. This brain system is also one of the earliest affected in disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, so there is an urgent need to better understand how it works in the living human brain.
In this BBSRC grant, we are going to combine 'naturalistic' cognitive tasks (such as virtual reality and movie viewing) with cutting-edge brain imaging techniques that will allow us to map the structure, function, and connectivity of the hippocampus in ultra-high detail.
I will be collaborating with cognitive and computational neuroscientists at Cardiff University (Kim Graham, Andrew Lawrence, Jiaxiang Zhang, and John Aggleton), in order to develop detailed models of how this brain system supports event memory, and allow us to make links between this work and studies done in nonhuman animals.
Our hope is that a deeper understanding of how the brain supports these processes will allow us to design better tasks for identifying individuals at risk of poor cognitive health in later life.