Working Memory and Language Laboratory


​​​​​What is Working Memory?

Working memory refers to the ability to remember information for short periods of time in order to solve a problem or accomplish a task.  Remembering a list of ingredients while navigating the grocery store, following the steps o​f a recipe, and converting frac​tions for a double-batch of cookies all require working memory.  Working memory isn't only useful for cooking. It's used whenever you have to figure out something new, and it supports long-term learning.

Why is Language Important to Working Memory?

Working memory is important for making sense of lang​uage.  We can only hear or read words one-at-a-time. Therefore, we must hold onto the words—and their order—while simultaneously creating meaning and thinkin​g about our own response. Children with hearing loss must especially rely on working memory. Because the auditor​y signal they get is sometimes ambiguous, children with hearing loss often problem-solve to work out the meaning of what they hear.

Current Projects:

Auditory Distraction in Children

If we want to ignore parts of our visual world, we can easily just turn around or shut our eyes. Children with typical hearing cannot just "turn off" their hearing; therefore, the auditory world poses a constant opportunity for distraction. Although the presence of irrelevant sound impairs memory in children, we believe that it also provides a valuable opportunity to learn to control attention in the face of distraction. First, we want to understand how these attentional processes develop in typically-hearing children to support memory and learning. We often work with the Brain, Executive Function and Attention Research (B.E.A.R.) Lab to measure brain activity in the presence of auditory distraction. Then we will explore how attentional development is impacted by a period of hearing de​privation and the subsequent ability to "turn off" hearing aids and cochlear implants.

The Development of "Self-Talk" as a Memory Strategy​

It is common for adults to talk to themselves when they need to r​emember something. When an adult silently says the same word or phrase over and over in an attempt to commit it to memory, we call this rehearsal. Unfortunately, we know much less about how and when children rehearse. In this proj​ect, we measure how children's rehearsal changes as the memory task gets harder. We also want to know how children's use of rehearsal changes over time. This project is funded by a NIH Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant (NIH-NIGMS / 5P20GM109023-04).

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