Physical fitness and episodic memory across the lifespan

As much as we wish it weren't the case, some of our cognitive abilities decline as we age. Episodic memory, or memory for episodes in our lives, is particularly vulnerable to age-related change. This form of memory is critically dependent upon the hippocampus, an area known to undergo structural and functional changes with age. Several ongoing projects in the lab are investigating whether and how lifestyle factors known to benefit hippocampal health -- in particular, regular exercise -- may improve episodic memory in both younger and older adults.

Exercise type and executive function in young adults

Aerobic exercise has been shown to be beneficial for various forms of cognition, including executive function. Less is known, however, regarding the relationship between executive function and different forms of exercise, such as resistance training or high intensity interval training (HIIT). With a focus on young adults, we aim to better understand whether and how different types of exercise are beneficial to working memory and cognitive control.

Caffeine and episodic memory in young adults

Caffeine's stimulating effects on the nervous system and its ability to increase wakefulness and attention are well characterized. The degree to which caffeine affects episodic memory remains underspecified, however. In an ongoing series of studies, we aim to better understand caffeine's influence on memory encoding, consolidation, and retrieval in young adults, with an emphasis on caffeine's effects on false or distorted memories.

Episodic memory and wakeful rest in young adults

It's obvious to anyone who has pulled an all-nighter that sleep is imperative for proper cognitive functioning the next day. Indeed, extensive research indicates that sleep is beneficial for episodic memory. More recently, work in animals suggests that simply resting while awake -- wakeful rest -- may benefit memory as well. With this project we aim to extend such findings to humans to understand the degree to which using apps that encourage relaxation may benefit memory relative to apps that require active cognitive engagement.

© 2018 by Valerie Carr