As we go through our daily lives we are constantly being bombarded by sensory information. In our lab, we are interested in how the cognitive system maintains task representations in the face of these numerous, and often competing, sources of information. The cognitive system, as any complex system, depends on feedback mechanisms to ensure efficient performance. We use variations in behavioral performance to infer properties of these feedback mechanisms. Specifically, we ask what are the relevant aspects of previous performance and the stimulus environment that lead to improvements and/or decrements in performance?
Language is the ultimate serial behavior. For example, in language production, we must take some abstract mental representation and translate it into the sequence of words and sounds that allow us to express our thought. The complexity of translating our thoughts to words requires several distinct levels of processing, each subject to its own set of influences. Our interest is in the separation of these stages and in understanding how individuals coordinate the processing at each of these levels to maintain the fluent production of speech. Moreover, under what circumstances does this process break down and can we use variations in speech and fluency to identify specific difficulties in language production.
All of the research that we do in the lab is viewed within the context of Cognitive Aging. Generally speaking, we are interested in how in attentional control and language are affected by the healthy aging process. The goal of this work is two-fold. First, understanding the cognitive changes associated with aging will allow for the implementation of better cognitive interventions for the aging population. Second, understanding how cognitive processes change with aging allows us to understand more about how these processes function in individuals of all ages.