I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology at Stanford University as of August 2017, and advised by Dr. Anthony Wagner. I graduated from the Psychology PhD program at Harvard University in May 2017. I was on the Cognition, Brain, and Behavior track, and advised by Dr. Daniel Schacter. As a graduate student, I received extramural funding from the Beinecke Scholarship and Sackler Psychobiology Program. I graduated with a BA in Psychology and History from Middlebury College in May 2011.
My research examines how different neurocognitive processes interact and support episodic memory and related tasks beyond simple remembering, including imagining the future, solving social problems, and thinking creatively. I have used behavioral and neural (e.g., fMRI, TMS) methods to investigate questions related to these topics, and have studied both college students and aging populations. My work has been published in PNAS, Psychological Science, Journal of Neuroscience, Cerebral Cortex, JEP:General, JEP:LMC, Psychology and Aging, and other peer-reviewed journals, and covered by national media outlets like Time and Psychology Today.
Doctor of Philosophy, Harvard University (2017)
Master of Arts, Harvard University (2013)
Bachelor of Arts, Middlebury College (2011)
A Role for the Left Angular Gyrus in Episodic Simulation and Memory.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
2017; 37 (34): 8142–49
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies indicate that episodic simulation (i.e., imagining specific future experiences) and episodic memory (i.e., remembering specific past experiences) are associated with enhanced activity in a common set of neural regions referred to as the core network. This network comprises the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex, and left angular gyrus, among other regions. Because fMRI data are correlational, it is unknown whether activity increases in core network regions are critical for episodic simulation and episodic memory. In the current study, we used MRI-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to assess whether temporary disruption of the left angular gyrus would impair both episodic simulation and memory (16 participants, 10 females). Relative to TMS to a control site (vertex), disruption of the left angular gyrus significantly reduced the number of internal (i.e., episodic) details produced during the simulation and memory tasks, with a concomitant increase in external detail production (i.e., semantic, repetitive, or off-topic information), reflected by a significant detail by TMS site interaction. Difficulty in the simulation and memory tasks also increased after TMS to the left angular gyrus relative to the vertex. In contrast, performance in a nonepisodic control task did not differ statistically as a function of TMS site (i.e., number of free associates produced or difficulty in performing the free associate task). Together, these results are the first to demonstrate that the left angular gyrus is critical for both episodic simulation and episodic memory.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Humans have the ability to imagine future episodes (i.e., episodic simulation) and remember episodes from the past (i.e., episodic memory). A wealth of neuroimaging studies have revealed that these abilities are associated with enhanced activity in a core network of neural regions, including the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex, and left angular gyrus. However, neuroimaging data are correlational and do not tell us whether core regions support critical processes for simulation and memory. In the current study, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation and demonstrated that temporary disruption of the left angular gyrus leads to impairments in simulation and memory. The present study provides the first causal evidence to indicate that this region is critical for these fundamental abilities.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1319-17.2017
View details for PubMedID 28733357
Preparing for what might happen: An episodic specificity induction impacts the generation of alternative future events.
2017; 169: 118–28
A critical adaptive feature of future thinking involves the ability to generate alternative versions of possible future events. However, little is known about the nature of the processes that support this ability. Here we examined whether an episodic specificity induction - brief training in recollecting details of a recent experience that selectively impacts tasks that draw on episodic retrieval - (1) boosts alternative event generation and (2) changes one's initial perceptions of negative future events. In Experiment 1, an episodic specificity induction significantly increased the number of alternative positive outcomes that participants generated to a series of standardized negative events, compared with a control induction not focused on episodic specificity. We also observed larger decreases in the perceived plausibility and negativity of the original events in the specificity condition, where participants generated more alternative outcomes, relative to the control condition. In Experiment 2, we replicated and extended these findings using a series of personalized negative events. Our findings support the idea that episodic memory processes are involved in generating alternative outcomes to anticipated future events, and that boosting the number of alternative outcomes is related to subsequent changes in the perceived plausibility and valence of the original events, which may have implications for psychological well-being.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.08.010
View details for PubMedID 28886407
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5612915
Increased hippocampus to ventromedial prefrontal connectivity during the construction of episodic future events.
Both the hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) appear to be critical for episodic future simulation. Damage to either structure affects one's ability to remember the past and imagine the future, and both structures are commonly activated as part of a wider core network during future simulation. However, the precise role played by each of these structures and, indeed, the direction of information flow between them during episodic simulation, is still not well understood. In this study, we scanned participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging while they imagined future events in response to object cues. We then used dynamic causal modeling to examine effective connectivity between the left anterior hippocampus and vmPFC during the initial mental construction of the events. Our results show that while there is strong bidirectional intrinsic connectivity between these regions (i.e., irrespective of task conditions), only the hippocampus to vmPFC connection increases during the construction of episodic future events, suggesting that the hippocampus initiates event simulation in response to retrieval cues, driving activation in the vmPFC where episodic details may be further integrated.
View details for DOI 10.1002/hipo.22812
View details for PubMedID 29116660
Neural Mechanisms of Episodic Retrieval Support Divergent Creative Thinking.
Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
Prior research has indicated that brain regions and networks that support semantic memory, top-down and bottom-up attention, and cognitive control are all involved in divergent creative thinking. Kernels of evidence suggest that neural processes supporting episodic memory-the retrieval of particular elements of prior experiences-may also be involved in divergent thinking, but such processes have typically been characterized as not very relevant for, or even a hindrance to, creative output. In the present study, we combine functional magnetic resonance imaging with an experimental manipulation to test formally, for the first time, episodic memory's involvement in divergent thinking. Following a manipulation that facilitates detailed episodic retrieval, we observed greater neural activity in the hippocampus and stronger connectivity between a core brain network linked to episodic processing and a frontoparietal brain network linked to cognitive control during divergent thinking relative to an object association control task that requires little divergent thinking. Stronger coupling following the retrieval manipulation extended to a subsequent resting-state scan. Neural effects of the episodic manipulation were consistent with behavioral effects of enhanced idea production on divergent thinking but not object association. The results indicate that conceptual frameworks should accommodate the idea that episodic retrieval can function as a component process of creative idea generation, and highlight how the brain flexibly utilizes the retrieval of episodic details for tasks beyond simple remembering.
View details for DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhx312
View details for PubMedID 29161358
Episodic specificity induction impacts activity in a core brain network during construction of imagined future experiences
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2016; 113 (38): 10696-10701
Recent behavioral work suggests that an episodic specificity induction-brief training in recollecting the details of a past experience-enhances performance on subsequent tasks that rely on episodic retrieval, including imagining future experiences, solving open-ended problems, and thinking creatively. Despite these far-reaching behavioral effects, nothing is known about the neural processes impacted by an episodic specificity induction. Related neuroimaging work has linked episodic retrieval with a core network of brain regions that supports imagining future experiences. We tested the hypothesis that key structures in this network are influenced by the specificity induction. Participants received the specificity induction or one of two control inductions and then generated future events and semantic object comparisons during fMRI scanning. After receiving the specificity induction compared with the control, participants exhibited significantly more activity in several core network regions during the construction of imagined events over object comparisons, including the left anterior hippocampus, right inferior parietal lobule, right posterior cingulate cortex, and right ventral precuneus. Induction-related differences in the episodic detail of imagined events significantly modulated induction-related differences in the construction of imagined events in the left anterior hippocampus and right inferior parietal lobule. Resting-state functional connectivity analyses with hippocampal and inferior parietal lobule seed regions and the rest of the brain also revealed significantly stronger core network coupling following the specificity induction compared with the control. These findings provide evidence that an episodic specificity induction selectively targets episodic processes that are commonly linked to key core network regions, including the hippocampus.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1612278113
View details for Web of Science ID 000383622600064
View details for PubMedID 27601666
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5035866
Divergent creative thinking in young and older adults: Extending the effects of an episodic specificity induction
MEMORY & COGNITION
2016; 44 (6): 974-988
Recent research has suggested that an episodic specificity induction-brief training in recollecting the details of a past experience-enhances divergent creative thinking on the alternate uses task (AUT) in young adults, without affecting performance on tasks thought to involve little divergent thinking; however, the generalizability of these results to other populations and tasks is unknown. In the present experiments, we examined whether the effects of an episodic specificity induction would extend to older adults and a different index of divergent thinking, the consequences task. In Experiment 1, the specificity induction significantly enhanced divergent thinking on the AUT in both young and older adults, as compared with a control induction not requiring specific episodic retrieval; performance on a task involving little divergent thinking (generating associates for common objects) did not vary as a function of induction. No overall age-related differences were observed on either task. In Experiment 2, the specificity induction significantly enhanced divergent thinking (in terms of generating consequences of novel scenarios) in young adults, relative to another control induction not requiring episodic retrieval. To examine the types of creative ideas affected by the induction, the participants in both experiments also labeled each of their divergent-thinking responses as an "old idea" from memory or a "new idea" from imagination. New, and to some extent old, ideas were significantly boosted following the specificity induction relative to the control. These experiments provide novel evidence that an episodic specificity induction can boost divergent thinking in young and older adults, and indicate that episodic memory is involved in multiple divergent-thinking tasks.
View details for DOI 10.3758/s13421-016-0605-z
View details for Web of Science ID 000381391500012
View details for PubMedID 27001170
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4975991
Remembering the past and imagining the future: Identifying and enhancing the contribution of episodic memory
2016; 9 (3): 245-255
Recent studies have shown that imagining or simulating future events relies on many of the same cognitive and neural processes as remembering past events. According to the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis (Schacter and Addis, 2007), such overlap indicates that both remembered past and imagined future events rely heavily on episodic memory: future simulations are built on retrieved details of specific past experiences that are recombined into novel events. An alternative possibility is that commonalities between remembering and imagining reflect the influence of more general, non-episodic factors such as narrative style or communicative goals that shape the expression of both memory and imagination. We consider recent studies that distinguish the contributions of episodic and non-episodic processes in remembering the past and imagining the future by using an episodic specificity induction - brief training in recollecting the details of a past experience - and also extend this approach to the domains of problem solving and creative thinking. We conclude by suggesting that the specificity induction may target a process of scene construction that contributes to episodic memory as well as to imagination, problem solving, and creative thinking.
View details for DOI 10.1177/1750698016645230
View details for Web of Science ID 000380018200002
View details for PubMedID 28163775
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5289412
Worrying About the Future: An Episodic Specificity Induction Impacts Problem Solving, Reappraisal, and Well-Being
JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL
2016; 145 (4): 402-418
Previous research has demonstrated that an episodic specificity induction--brief training in recollecting details of a recent experience--enhances performance on various subsequent tasks thought to draw upon episodic memory processes. Existing work has also shown that mental simulation can be beneficial for emotion regulation and coping with stressors. Here we focus on understanding how episodic detail can affect problem solving, reappraisal, and psychological well-being regarding worrisome future events. In Experiment 1, an episodic specificity induction significantly improved participants' performance on a subsequent means-end problem solving task (i.e., more relevant steps) and an episodic reappraisal task (i.e., more episodic details) involving personally worrisome future events compared with a control induction not focused on episodic specificity. Imagining constructive behaviors with increased episodic detail via the specificity induction was also related to significantly larger decreases in anxiety, perceived likelihood of a bad outcome, and perceived difficulty to cope with a bad outcome, as well as larger increases in perceived likelihood of a good outcome and indicated use of active coping behaviors compared with the control. In Experiment 2, we extended these findings using a more stringent control induction, and found preliminary evidence that the specificity induction was related to an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect compared with the control. Our findings support the idea that episodic memory processes are involved in means-end problem solving and episodic reappraisal, and that increasing the episodic specificity of imagining constructive behaviors regarding worrisome events may be related to improved psychological well-being.
View details for DOI 10.1037/xge0000142
View details for Web of Science ID 000372550600004
View details for PubMedID 26820166
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4792686
Remembering the past and imagining the future: Selective effects of an episodic specificity induction on detail generation
QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
2016; 69 (2): 285-298
According to the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis, remembering past experiences and imagining future experiences both rely heavily on episodic memory. However, recent research indicates that nonepisodic processes such as descriptive ability also influence memory and imagination. We recently found that an episodic specificity induction--brief training in recollecting details of past experiences--enhanced detail generation on memory and imagination tasks but not a picture description task and thereby concluded that the induction can dissociate episodic processes involved in remembering the past and imagining the future from those nonepisodic processes involved in description. To evaluate the generality of our previous findings and to examine the role of generative search in producing those findings, we modified our paradigm so that word cues replaced picture cues, and a word comparison task that requires generation of sentences and word definitions replaced picture description. Young adult participants received either a specificity induction or one of two control inductions before completing the memory, imagination, and word comparison tasks. Replicating and extending our previous work, we found that the specificity induction increased detail generation in memory and imagination without having an effect on word comparison. The induction's selective effect on memory and imagination stemmed from an increase in internal (i.e., on-topic and episodic) details and had no effect on external (e.g., off-topic or semantic) details. The results point to the efficacy of the specificity induction for isolating episodic processes involved in remembering the past and imagining the future even when a nonepisodic task requires generative search.
View details for DOI 10.1080/17470218.2014.999097
View details for Web of Science ID 000370879700007
View details for PubMedID 25529786
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4545482
Creativity and Memory: Effects of an Episodic-Specificity Induction on Divergent Thinking
2015; 26 (9): 1461-1468
People produce more episodic details when imagining future events and solving means-end problems after receiving an episodic-specificity induction-brief training in recollecting details of a recent event-than after receiving a control induction not focused on episodic retrieval. Here we show for the first time that an episodic-specificity induction also enhances divergent creative thinking. In Experiment 1, participants exhibited a selective boost on a divergent-thinking task (generating unusual uses of common objects) after a specificity induction compared with a control induction; by contrast, performance following the two inductions was similar on an object association task thought to involve little divergent thinking. In Experiment 2, we replicated the specificity-induction effect on divergent thinking using a different control induction, and also found that participants performed similarly on a convergent-thinking task following the two inductions. These experiments provide novel evidence that episodic memory is involved in divergent creative thinking.
View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797615591863
View details for Web of Science ID 000361171200012
View details for PubMedID 26205963
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4567456
Future planning: default network activity couples with frontoparietal control network and reward-processing regions during process and outcome simulations
SOCIAL COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE
2014; 9 (12): 1942-1951
We spend much of our daily lives imagining how we can reach future goals and what will happen when we attain them. Despite the prevalence of such goal-directed simulations, neuroimaging studies on planning have mainly focused on executive processes in the frontal lobe. This experiment examined the neural basis of process simulations, during which participants imagined themselves going through steps toward attaining a goal, and outcome simulations, during which participants imagined events they associated with achieving a goal. In the scanner, participants engaged in these simulation tasks and an odd/even control task. We hypothesized that process simulations would recruit default and frontoparietal control network regions, and that outcome simulations, which allow us to anticipate the affective consequences of achieving goals, would recruit default and reward-processing regions. Our analysis of brain activity that covaried with process and outcome simulations confirmed these hypotheses. A functional connectivity analysis with posterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior inferior parietal lobule seeds showed that their activity was correlated during process simulations and associated with a distributed network of default and frontoparietal control network regions. During outcome simulations, medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala seeds covaried together and formed a functional network with default and reward-processing regions.
View details for DOI 10.1093/scan/nsu001
View details for Web of Science ID 000350105900011
View details for PubMedID 24493844
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4249471
An Episodic Specificity Induction Enhances Means-End Problem Solving in Young and Older Adults
PSYCHOLOGY AND AGING
2014; 29 (4): 913-924
Episodic memory plays an important role not only in remembering past experiences, but also in constructing simulations of future experiences and solving means-end social problems. We recently found that an episodic specificity induction-brief training in recollecting details of past experiences-enhances performance of young and older adults on memory and imagination tasks. Here we tested the hypothesis that this specificity induction would also positively impact a means-end problem-solving task on which age-related changes have been linked to impaired episodic memory. Young and older adults received the specificity induction or a control induction before completing a means-end problem-solving task, as well as memory and imagination tasks. Consistent with previous findings, older adults provided fewer relevant steps on problem solving than did young adults, and their responses also contained fewer internal (i.e., episodic) details across the 3 tasks. There was no difference in the number of other (e.g., irrelevant) steps on problem solving or external (i.e., semantic) details generated on the 3 tasks as a function of age. Critically, the specificity induction increased the number of relevant steps and internal details (but not other steps or external details) that both young and older adults generated in problem solving compared with the control induction, as well as the number of internal details (but not external details) generated for memory and imagination. Our findings support the idea that episodic retrieval processes are involved in means-end problem solving, extend the range of tasks on which a specificity induction targets these processes, and show that the problem-solving performance of older adults can benefit from a specificity induction as much as that of young adults.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0038209
View details for Web of Science ID 000346277900016
View details for PubMedID 25365688
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4268420
Constructive Episodic Simulation: Dissociable Effects of a Specificity Induction on Remembering, Imagining, and Describing in Young and Older Adults
JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-LEARNING MEMORY AND COGNITION
2014; 40 (3): 609-622
According to the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis (Schacter & Addis, 2007), both remembered past and imagined future events rely heavily on episodic memory. An alternative hypothesis is that observed similarities between remembering and imagining reflect the influence of broader factors such as descriptive ability, narrative style, or inhibitory control. We attempted to distinguish between these 2 hypotheses by examining the impact of an episodic specificity induction on memory, imagination, and picture description in young and older adults. In Experiment 1, participants received the specificity induction or a control induction prior to the memory, imagination, and description tasks. Older adults provided fewer internal (i.e., episodic) and more external (i.e., semantic) details than young adults across the 3 tasks irrespective of induction. Critically, however, the specificity induction selectively increased internal but not external details for memory and imagination in both age groups compared with the control induction. By contrast, the induction did not affect internal (or external) details for picture description. Experiment 2 replicated these results in young adults using a different control induction. Our findings point to a dissociation between episodic processes involved in memory and imagination and nonepisodic processes involved in picture description.
View details for DOI 10.1037/a0034885
View details for Web of Science ID 000335220200001
View details for PubMedID 24188466
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4006318