Jonides Lab Research

about the lab

at the forefront of memory research

Welcome to the University of Michigan's Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab.

Working memory is an integral part of our everyday lives, so much that most of the time we are not even aware it is at work. Our aim in the Jonides Lab is to better understand the mechanisms and underlying processes that contribute to working memory and to executive processes that operate on the contents of working memory. The majority of our work is concerned with the storage of information in working memory, as well as with executive functions of working memory. Our tasks are intended to study the processes by which participants allocate attention selectively to information in their environment as well as those used to switch attention from one piece of information to another, or inhibit attention to irrelevant information. Also, our lab is interested in individual differences in working memory and how these predict cognitive performance, especially concentrating in how training working memory and executive processing may change performance in cognitive tasks.

For the past 50 years, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience have made huge progress in understanding some of the computational mechanisms that are involved in cognition (including perception, memory, decision-making, and others). What is lacking in much of this work, however, is an understanding of how states of motivation influence the operation of those cognitive processes. The laboratory has begun a program of study to understand the global and local influences of differences in motivation on the success of cognitive operations. We are studying the influence of motivation on cognitive control, memory, and cognitive training at present.

Our lab is further interested in investigating weight control. Obesity is a national epidemic. By even conservative estimates, some 30% of the population of the U.S. is clinically obese, with important consequences for the health of those individuals and for the liability the country is assuming for the future cost of health care. One of the issues that arises when considering the problem of weight management is whether there is a role of cognitive control: the ability to behave in ways that show restraint when restraint is appropriate. The laboratory has been studying whether food-related cognition and cognitive control are altered in individuals struggling with weight management and dieting.