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Our lab studies why we remember certain parts of our experiences, how stress and affect influence these memories, and how what we remember guides our behavior. Our interdisciplinary research integrates the cognitive neuroscience of memory with translational stress neurobiology. We leverage techniques including novel behavioral tasks, neuroendocrine assays, psychophysiology, advanced functional neuroimaging (fMRI), machine learning, computational modeling, clinical populations, and real-world behavioral monitoring to understand these processes in everyday life and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Characterizing multiple memory systems and their contributions to behavior

Our research is inspired by the understanding that our experiences can be broken down into different type of memories, which can be supported by multiple brain systems. These memories can compete or cooperate to change our behavior. In this line of work, we analyze the cognitive and neural dynamics that govern each type of memory separately and dictate their contributions to behaviors ranging from attention to real-world drinking and substance use. For example:

Goldfarb, E.V., Chun, M.M., & Phelps, E.A. (2016). Memory guided attention: Independent contributions of the hippocampus and striatum. Neuron, 89(2), 317-324.

Goldfarb, E.V. & Sinha, R. (2018). Drug-induced glucocorticoids and memory for substance use. Trends Neurosci, 41(11), 853-868.

Goldfarb, E.V., Fogelman, N. & Sinha, R. (2020). Memory biases in alcohol use disorder: Enhanced memory for contexts associated with alcohol prospectively predicts alcohol use outcomes. Neuropsychopharmacology, 45, 1297-1305.

Dynamic interactions between stress and memories

Although stress is known to change what we remember, these effects are complex and often contradictory. We disentangle these effects by examining how stress influences different types of memories and how memory-related neural processes in turn predict stress responses. We aim to translate discoveries of behavioral and cellular mechanisms of stress effects in nonhuman animals into interventions that can benefit memory in humans. In this line of work, we embrace a broad perspective on stress by considering chronic and acute stressors, distinct components of the stress response, as well as other interventions that evoke the release of stress-related hormones. We investigate how each of these processes change the computations and neural mechanisms that support different memories. For example:

Goldfarb, E.V., Tompary, A., Davachi, L., & Phelps, E.A. (2019). Acute stress throughout the memory cycle: Diverging effects on associative and item memory. J Exp Psychol: Gen, 148(1), 13-29.

Goldfarb, E.V., Rosenberg, M.D., Seo, D., Constable, R.T. & Sinha, R. (2020). Hippocampal seed connectome-based modeling predicts the feeling of stress. Nat Commun, 11, 2650.

Goldfarb, E.V., Frobose, M.I., Cools, R., & Phelps, E.A. (2017). Stress and cognitive flexibility: Cortisol increases are associated with enhanced updating but impaired switching. J Cog Neuro, 29(1), 14-24.

Goldfarb, E.V., Shields, G.S., Daw, N.D., Slavich, G.M., & Phelps, E.A. (2017). Low lifetime stress exposure is associated with reduced stimulus-response memory. Learn Mem, 24(4), 145-152.