Humans encounter massive amounts of information every day. The ability to make effective selections on external input, to perform different levels of processing in different scenarios, and to make corresponding actions according to current task goals, constitutes the core of human cognition, and underlies high-level cognition such as inference, language comprehension, and problem solving. The primary interest of our lab is thus to understand the neural mechanisms that underlie such flexible behaviors.
Our work combines functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), electrocorticography (ECoG) with psychophysics and computational modeling, to understand the neural mechanisms of visual and high-level cognition. Specifically, we are interested in the neural mechanism of working memory, and its interaction with perception, attention, imagery, abstraction, and consciousness. Working memory refers to the ability to maintain and manipulate information in mind for a short period of time in order to serve current behavior demands. It is an ability that is used almost all the time in our daily life, such as holding a phone number in mind and dial it, or navigating a map to get to a specific destination. How is such information being processed in working memory? How are more complicated behaviors derived from the execution of working memory processes?
Specifically, we seek to understand:
1. What are the respective roles of different cortical regions in working memory?
2. Our brain may respond to the same piece of information differently, depending on the scenarios and contexts. How is information represented differently at the neural level to serve different behavioral demands? How do we computationally establish the brain-behavior relationship for these flexible neural codes?
3. Humans can construct rich internal experience, without any external input. How do we generate vivid imagery in our brain? How is mental imagery different from perceptual and mnemonic experiences derived externally?