Inhibitory Mechanisms in Working Memory

One of the ways in which we are able to maintain goal-directed behavior is by ignoring or suppressing competing goal-irrelevant information in the environment and in memory. We are interested in investigating the cognitive control mechanism that prevents intrusions of memories from past events from interfering with task performance, which is known as resistance to proactive interference. Using a directed forgetting task, we are able to evaluate the ability to forget previously relevant but no longer relevant information. We are currently asking questions to assess the specific mechanism that underlies resistance from proactive interference – is irrelevant information inhibited in favor of relevant information? Is relevant information up-regulated in activation to dominate irrelevant information? Is a combination of these mechanisms at work?

Cognitive Control and Self-Regulation

Our lab investigates basic cognitive control processes, model systems in which these processes are altered or impaired, and real-world consequences of such impairment. For example, one line of research focuses on the ability to delay gratification in childhood, how this ability develops across the lifespan, and outcomes associated with failure to delay gratification. We are also interested in how people think about food, and whether food-related thoughts can interfere with normal cognitive processing and weight management. We have also studied changes in cognitive control that accompany Major Depressive Disorder and ADHD.


We are studying the efficacy and long-term impact of tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) on working memory performance. In one of our studies using a working memory task, we investigate whether experiencing tDCS before, after, or during the task improves working memory capacity, and whether any gains in capacity can be maintained months after the stimulation and training end. We also have a study involving tDCS in an fMRI scanner, in an effort to better understand what happens during stimulation sessions.