Keywords: cognitive neuroscientist, unabashed cat lady, biker, hiker, wannabe chef.
Main Methods: fMRI, psychophysiology, rTMS
I am fascinated by how we experience and re-experience the good and the bad in our lives and the underlying neural and physiological mechanisms that make this possible.
In my PhD work with Elizabeth Kensinger, I focused on the behavioral and neural enhancements of negative and positive memories. Specifically, I examined how, despite both showing arousal-related enhancements in memory, the formation and retrieval of negative and positive memories can be remarkably different . As a post-doctoral scholar at UC Irvine working with Mike Yassa, I am examining how salience influences our ability to separate highly similar memories from one another, with a focus on how alterations in these processes predict symptoms of depression.
I moved to Boston in 2006 to attend Northeastern University for my undergraduate education in Behavioral Neuroscience. My research began in my undergraduate career at Northeastern University—where I completed a full-time internship examining visual perception at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and became intrigued with the visual system. My passion for understanding how we visually and internally re-experience emotional memories was initially inspired by my work as a research assistant at the Boston Veterans Administration (VA). There, I coordinated clinical trials that examined the efficacy of neurorehabilitation treatments for 9/11-era Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain injury, and sleep disturbances—a vicious cycle of symptoms I described in a review paper (Gilbert, Kark, et al., 2015). At the VA, I was surprised to learn how many basic science questions with regard to emotional memory disorders were still unanswered. Progress in understanding the basis for emotional memory biases in psychiatric conditions (e.g., remembering the bad more often than the good) remain hindered by inadequate understanding of emotional memory in healthy individuals. These gaps in knowledge spurred me to pursue a PhD in Elizabeth Kensinger's Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Boston College. In my dissertation work at Boston College, I investigated the unique neural and physiological underpinnings that distinguish negative memories from positive memories. I am fascinated by the human ability to re-experience the past, that is, the ability of our brain to reactivate memory traces and bring to mind various aspects (e.g., sensory details, feelings, reactions, thoughts) experienced during the initial event, all of which gives rise to the subjective sense of re-living prior moments in time. I am particularly interested in the the interactions between visual processing regions and the amygdala in the encoding and retrieval of negative memories. Further, I am investigating the neural-autonomic correlates of emotional memory.
Other random bits to share:
In my free time I enjoy cycling and hiking with my wife, Laurie. Our cats, Nala and Bowtie, have spent many hours warming my lap while I work. I love to cook and make delicious sauces. I almost pursued a graduate degree in neurogastronomy, but instead, I got my fix of foodie-brain literature by guest lecturing in Gastronomy Program at Boston University every semester from 2012-2018. It is fascinating to bring brain science to graduate-level students outside of the science majors. I enjoy finding new music, films, and concerts around town.
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