Stress and Motivated Behavior Institute

Human Learning and Memory

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)  Amnesia  Alzheimer’s disease  Parkinson’s disease Behavioral genetics of individual differences  Personality traits that affect learning and memory in healthy individuals 

The SMBI conducts a number of studies of learning and memory in humans, with the goals of understanding the parameters governing learning and memory in healthy individuals and of understanding how learning and memory breaks down in individuals with various disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. 

Computer_Task_Photo.JPGCentral to this research is an understanding of the hippocampus, a brain structure that is important for new memory formation, especially (but not only) memory for new facts and autobiographical events.  Disruption of hippocampal processing is a common feature in many disorders where patients show symptoms of memory impairment.  To better understand the role of this important brain region, SMBI researchers study learning and memory, using tasks such as the learning of simple motor responses as well as computer “games” in which participants learn through trial and error how to win points.  Performance of healthy adults can be compared to that of patients with different kinds of brain damage, to determine which types of processing are impaired and spared. 

In addition, SMBI researchers are conducting studies of personality traits and behavioral genetics to better understand why – even among healthy individuals – there is variation in what we remember and how we forget.