The Science of Visual Memory: How the Eye and Brain Work Together to get Things Done

One of the critical, sort of central topics
that we study is a concept called, “working memory.” It’s the brain’s ability to temporarily
hold some information in mind so that we can think about it and act upon that information.
It could be classified as visual cognition. So we’re really interested in how the eyes
take in information from the world and sort of make sense of what we see and so we can
remember and act upon that information. So those behavioral measurements that we’re acquiring
are a good way to understand what makes different memory tasks or attention tasks difficult
or easy. Why are some individuals better at these tasks than others? What are the neural
reasons for those differences between individuals? Data is collected in two different areas in
the laboratory. There’s the EEG electrophysiology suite–this is where they are having electrodes
attached to their scalps and we can measure electrical activity inside these radiofrequency
shielded booths. And there’s the behavioral run rooms where we give them challenging attention
and memory tasks to do on computers. We measure things like reaction time and accuracy. These
behavioral data are what allow us to interpret the tasks that we’re actually running and
which allow us to understand the neural activity that we’re measuring using techniques like
EEG and MRI. So that’s an important part of the laboratory’s approach, as well. One advantage
that we’ve got with this new facility is having a higher through-put in terms of data collection.
In our previous lab we had the ability to record 3 different subjects doing EEG at the
same time. And with this new facility we can go up to 5. And so being able to expand up
to five, while it sounds like a slight increment, actually is a, you know, a pretty dramatic
increase in what our through-put is. That allows us to be able to be sort of more flexible,
and to be able to go after more interesting and bigger problems. The joking phrase I use
often to say, “We’re not trying to make anyone smarter; we’re trying to make them dumb less


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