Brain Imaging Series Lecture: Brenda Kirchhoff (University of Missouri-St. Louis) 3pm Center for Advanced Brain Imaging Conference Room
Brenda Kirchhoff, Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Missouri-St. Louis
Lecture Title: “Self-initiated encoding strategies and individual differences in episodic memory”
Abstract: Growing evidence suggests that individual differences in self-initiated encoding strategy use play an important role in individual differences in memory for personally experienced events (episodic memory). In a study examining individual differences in episodic memory in young adults, we found that individual differences in self-initiated use of verbal and visual encoding strategies are associated with individual differences in memory performance. Use of verbal encoding strategies is correlated with activity in a network of brain regions that includes prefrontal regions associated with controlled verbal processing, while use of visual strategies is correlated with activity in a network of brain regions that includes an extrastriate region associated with object processing. Activity in brain regions associated with use of these effective strategies is also correlated with memory performance. Age-related changes in self-initiated use of encoding strategies could also play an important role in changes in episodic memory and brain activity in older adults. Behavioral studies have suggested that older adults are less likely than young adults to spontaneously use effective encoding strategies during intentional encoding. In addition, age-related changes in brain activity during intentional encoding have been reported in prefrontal regions associated with self-initiated use of effective encoding strategies in young adults. To further explore the role that age-related changes in self-initiated encoding strategy use may play in age-related changes in episodic memory and brain activity in prefrontal cortex, we recently conducted a cognitive training study in which older adults were taught to use semantic (meaning-based) encoding strategies. Training older adults to use semantic encoding strategies substantially improved their ability to consciously recollect studied words. Older adults reported greater self-initiated use of semantic encoding strategies following cognitive training, and were less likely to report not using any encoding strategy. Brain activity in left inferior prefrontal regions associated with semantic processing increased following cognitive training, and individual differences in training-related changes in brain activity in these regions were associated with individual differences in training-related changes in memory performance.