Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Karuza
Humans are the ultimate pattern learners. We absorb a constant stream of complicated, noisy data and somehow emerge with a deep understanding of structures like language, categories, even what kinds of events are likely to follow one another in time. That “somehow” is the focus of my lab. Given known constraints on the human brain, how do learners extract the information they need from the environment, often without realizing they are doing it? To answer this question my lab takes a multi-pronged approach. We use a variety of behavioral methods to examine learners’ sensitivity to both the simple associations and network-level structures around them, with a particular focus on which patterns best facilitate learning. We also study the neural mechanisms underlying pattern learning through brain imaging techniques such as fMRI. Finally, we investigate the conditions under which learning can be boosted or impeded, including asking whether brain stimulation might be a useful tool in this endeavor.