Research in the Schacter memory lab is broadly concerned with understanding the nature and function of human memory, using cognitive, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging approaches. Current topics of interest, and examples of related projects, include:

Constructive memory and memory distortion: Memory is not always accurate, and understanding the nature of memory distortion can provide important insights into how memory works. Current projects include using fMRI to understand brain regions involved in retrieval, and the investigations of reactivation processes related to accurate and inaccurate memories.

The role of memory in imagining the future: We have argued recently that memory plays a critical role in allowing individuals to imagine or simulate events that might occur in their personal futures. We have further suggested that understanding memory’s role in future event simulation may be important for understanding the constructive nature of memory, because the former requires a system that allows flexible recombination of elements of past experience, which may also contribute to memory errors. Current projects include both behavioral and fMRI studies of future event simulation, autobiographical planning, effects of episodic specificity training on remembering and imagining, the relation between anxiety and imagining the future, and the effects of simulating imagined scenarios on empathy and prosocial intentions.

Counterfactual simulation and memory: Memory not only contributes to simulation of possible future events, but also allows us to generate counterfactual simulations of how past experiences might have turned out differently. We are using both fMRI and behavioral approaches to investigate the relation between such counterfactual simulations and memory accuracy/distortion, the effects of repetition on the subjective plausibility of counterfactual simulations, and the role of self and other in counterfactual simulations.

Priming and implicit memory: Priming is a nonconscious or implicit form of memory that can be dissociated from explicit, conscious remembering. We have had a longstanding interest in understanding the nature and neural basis of priming, and are currently using repetition suppression, a form of priming, as a tool to examine the nature of future event simulations.

Aging and memory: Our lab has been investigating the nature of aging memory for the past two decades. We are currently interested especially in understanding the effects of aging on the nature of future event simulation, flexible recombination of past experiences, specificity of episodic simulations, and counterfactual simulations, in both behavioral and fMRI experiments. We are also interested in exploring these issues in disorders of aging such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Enhancing online learning: We have recently begun to investigate attention and memory during online lectures, and have shown that interpolating brief quizzes during online lectures can reduce mind wandering and increase retention of lecture content. Current projects are building on and expanding these initial findings as well as examining their neural underpinnings using fMRI.