Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin
M.A. Charles University in Prague
Research Interests: Cognitive-Neuroscience, Memory
Overview: Memory allows us to use past experiences to navigate novel situations and inform future decisions. Because every event is unique, we need to use memory flexibly, drawing upon multiple relevant experiences to anticipate future judgments. Brain and Memory Lab studies how memories are formed and how they are linked to each other to create internal representations of the world that can guide our behavior. We investigate how different memory systems are implemented in the brain, how they represent information, and how they interact. In the quest for discovery, we rely on computer-based experiments, cognitive models of behavior, and advanced functional MRI methods.
My research focuses on how we build complex knowledge representations—such as schemas, cognitive maps or concepts—from simple learning experiences. Stacking memories as building blocks, we form knowledge that transcend direct experience, allowing us to use the memory for the past to guide behavior in the future. I am especially interested how the hippocampus—a brain structure critical for memory for individual events in our lives—interacts with the prefrontal cortex and other memory systems to support the flexible use of experience. My primary research tools include computer-based experiments, formal models of behavior, and advanced functional MRI methods.
Brain Mechanisms of Concept Learning.
J Neurosci. 2019 Oct 16;39(42):8259-8266
Authors: Zeithamova D, Mack ML, Braunlich K, Davis T, Seger CA, van Kesteren MTR, Wutz A
Concept learning, the ability to extract commonalities and highlight distinctions across a set of related experiences to build organized knowledge, is a critical aspect of cognition. Previous reviews have focused on concept learning research as a means for dissociating multiple brain systems. The current review surveys recent work that uses novel analytical approaches, including the combination of computational modeling with neural measures, focused on testing theories of specific computations and representations that contribute to concept learning. We discuss in detail the roles of the hippocampus, ventromedial prefrontal, lateral prefrontal, and lateral parietal cortices, and how their engagement is modulated by the coherence of experiences and the current learning goals. We conclude that the interaction of multiple brain systems relating to learning, memory, attention, perception, and reward support a flexible concept-learning mechanism that adapts to a range of category structures and incorporates motivational states, making concept learning a fruitful research domain for understanding the neural dynamics underlying complex behaviors.
PMID: 31619495 [PubMed - in process]
Differential Functional Connectivity along the Long Axis of the Hippocampus Aligns with Differential Role in Memory Specificity and Generalization.
J Cogn Neurosci. 2019 Aug 09;:1-18
Authors: Frank LE, Bowman CR, Zeithamova D
The hippocampus contributes to both remembering specific events and generalization across events. Recent work suggests that information may be represented along the longitudinal axis of the hippocampus at varied levels of specificity: detailed representations in the posterior hippocampus and generalized representations in the anterior hippocampus. Similar distinctions are thought to exist within neocortex, with lateral prefrontal and lateral parietal regions supporting memory specificity and ventromedial prefrontal and lateral temporal cortices supporting generalized memory. Here, we tested whether functional connectivity of anterior and posterior hippocampus with cortical memory regions is consistent with these proposed dissociations. We predicted greater connectivity of anterior hippocampus with putative generalization regions and posterior hippocampus with putative memory specificity regions. Furthermore, we tested whether differences in connectivity are stable under varying levels of task engagement. Participants learned to categorize a set of stimuli outside the scanner, followed by an fMRI session that included a rest scan, passive viewing runs, and category generalization task runs. Analyses revealed stronger connectivity of ventromedial pFC to anterior hippocampus and of angular gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus to posterior hippocampus. These differences remained relatively stable across the three phases (rest, passive viewing, category generalization). Whole-brain analyses further revealed widespread cortical connectivity with both anterior and posterior hippocampus, with relatively little overlap. These results contribute to our understanding of functional organization along the long axis of the hippocampus and suggest that distinct hippocampal-cortical connections are one mechanism by which the hippocampus represents both individual experiences and generalized knowledge.
PMID: 31397613 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]