seahorseThe Neuroscience of Memory, Aging and Dementia Lab (PI: Mike Yassa) is located in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. We are affiliated with the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) and the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

The overarching goal of our research is to advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying long-term memory functions in humans. In particular, we are interested in the computational functions of the hippocampus and the surrounding medial temporal lobes (MTL).

To accomplish this goal, we investigate these mechanisms in young and older adults, as well as memory-impaired patients, using neuroimaging and experimental psychology methods. A hallmark feature of the aging process is memory loss, thus aging serves as a model of memory impairment that allows us to test specific hypotheses regarding MTL function. In addition, modeling age-related changes will promote our understanding of Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) and lead the way to early diagnosis and intervention.

The questions motivating our research are: (1) what are the neural mechanisms in the MTL that support its role in memory? (2) how are MTL structures and networks altered in the course of aging, and how does this inform our understanding of MTL function? and (3) how can we identify early preclinical biomarkers that can distinguish between normal and pathological age-related changes in the MTL?

In addition, we are interested in psychiatric and neurological disorders with a learning and memory deficit such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse. We have several collaborative projects that aim to investigate learning and memory deficits in these conditions.

brain_on_coffeeNow in press: Borota et al. Nat NeurosciWe observed that caffeine has a positive effect on memory consolidation even after all of caffeine’s other cognitive enhancing effects have been controlled. Using a post-study design, we found that individuals who were administered caffeine had better memory performance 24 hours after study. This work was published Jan 12, 2014 in Nature Neuroscience. Click here to read more.