To conduct research in our lab, we primarily use two neuroscience techniques which complement one another.
Electrophysiological recordings: we use these to examine the electroencephalogram (EEG) which allows us to continuously examine the temporal dynamics of neural networks underlying cognitive processes. EEG recordings have a precise millisecond-level resolution that help to dissect the rapid cascade of cognitive and neural operations that result in the behavioural output of an individual.
Individual-differences approach: we examine the behavioural output using this approach. It provides a large-scale picture of the complex relationships amongst cognitive abilities by revealing the structure of covariance in individuals’ performance on a multitude of cognitive tasks.
Utilizing real-time electrophysiological recordings to enhance human cognition
Although we can store a theoretically infinite amount of visual information in our visual long-term memory (VLTM), our ability to encode new information to VLTM fluctuates from moment to moment. Sometimes, new information slides into our VLTM without much effort, or even against our will (e.g., when we try not to remember a scary scene of a horror movie), but other times, new information does not get encoded no matter how hard we try (e.g., cramming for a final exam). This is very inconvenient! We decided to investigate if there is any way to monitor this fluctuation in real-time and intervene when there are memory failures.
In our study (Fukuda & Woodman, 2015) we demonstrated that there is a way to do this! More precisely, we showed that by measuring multiple brainwave (EEG) indices of the quality of the memory encoding while individuals encode new visual information, we were able to monitor the moment-to-moment fluctuations in the quality of memory encoding, and select study materials that benefited more from restudy opportunities. Considering how affordable brainwave measurement is, especially compared to other neural measurements, we may one day wear EEG caps in classrooms to track and enhance our study quality!