Prof Jeff Zacks from Washington University
Title: Event comprehension and memory in the predictive brain
Everyday activity is continuous, dynamic, and high bandwidth—yet we seem to have the subjective experience of a modest number of meaningful events that stand in structured relations to each other. In this talk, I will describe a theory that relates the subjective experience of events to computational mechanisms of prediction error monitoring and memory updating. Briefly, Event Segmentation Theory proposes that perceivers maintain a working memory representation of the current event and use it to guide predictions about what will happen in the near future. When prediction error spikes, they update their model. Data from individual differences, neuropsychology, and neuroimaging suggest that this mechanism is functionally significant for memory and that it can be impaired by neurological injury or disease. New results indicate that it is possible to improve the encoding of event structure and that this may improve subsequent memory. Such results have implications for technology design and for the remediation of memory disorders in conditions including healthy aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jeffrey M. Zacks is Professor and Associate Chair of Psychological & Brain Sciences, and Professor of Radiology, at Washington University in Saint Louis. He received his bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from Yale University and his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Stanford University in 1999. His research has been funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. He has served as Associate Editor of the journals Cognition, Cognitive Research: Principles & Implications, and Collabra, and as Chair of the governing board of the Psychonomic Society, the leading association of experimental psychologists. He is the recipient of scientific awards from the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Foundation, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Psychological Science, the Midwest Psychological Association, and the Society of Experimental Psychologists. Zacks is the author of two books, Flicker: Your Brain on Movies and Event Cognition (with G.A. Radvansky), and co-editor of Understanding Events (with Thomas F. Shipley). He has published more than 70 journal articles and also has written for Salon, Aeon, and The New York Times.