We focus our research on how you store and access knowledge in your brain. This knowledge is usually called semantic memory, or knowledge of things and concepts. Much of this knowledge is encoded at an early age and previous research by Dr. Hart and collaborators found how that information is stored. Objects are stored into broad categories such as animals or fruit and vegetables. Their work has also shown that specific memories of the parts or features of an object may be stored at or near the sensory parts of the brain that those objects were first experienced in. For example, the visual part of an animal (e.g., ‘leggedness’, ‘tail’, color ‘red’ of a fox) are stored in the visual system while the touch aspects of what an object feels like are stored in the sensory-touch system. Further research by our lab uncovered how this information is retrieved from a variety of systems through the semantic object retrieval task (SORT).
Our lab is now applying what it has learned about object retrieval from semantic knowledge to populations who report a problem finding words as part of the object knowledge. Patients with a wide variety of disorders including normal aging, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, traumatic head injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Gulf War syndrome show differences from normal retrieval. The lab has also found retrieval differences in retired NFL players.
Check out what our lab is doing on our YouTube channel.
Our lab continues to focus on understanding object retrieval and word finding, but now includes treatment programs. The lab recently developed a new therapeutic approach to post-traumatic stress disorder by combining neuromodulation delivered by repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) with Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to provide greater, sustained symptom reduction in these patients. Current work focuses on applying neurmodulation (HD-tDCS) to veterans with traumatic brain injury and veterans with Gulf War syndrome to improve word finding.