Meet the members of our lab!
Dr. Patricia Bauer
The primary work of our laboratory is the study of memory and how it develops from infancy onward. Many of our studies focus on developments in episodic and autobiographical memory. By late in the first to early in the second year of life, infants accurately recall specific events over delays of weeks and even months. Many factors that affect memory in older children and adults also influence infants’ memories. These findings demonstrate continuity in recall processes across a wide developmental span. Yet there also are pronounced developmental changes in memory over the first years of life and beyond. By combining behavioral and electrophysiological (ERP) measures, my colleagues and I are working to understand how the functional changes we observe relate to developments in the basis processes of encoding, consolidation, storage, and retrieval of information from memory; and to neuro-developmental changes that take place in the same period of time. The work has yielded novel insights into changes in personal episodic or autobiographical memory that help to explain childhood amnesia—the relative paucity of memories of specific events and experiences that happened early in life. Our findings indicate that the amnesia can be explained by faster rates of forgetting in childhood relative to adulthood, resulting in a smaller corpus of memories that subsequently are available for recollection. Many other of our studies focus on the development of semantic memory—the storehouse of world knowledge that we build up over time through our experiences in formal educational settings and everyday life. We are especially interested in how children and adults combine or integrate separate yet related episodes of new learning and extend beyond it to actually self-generate new factual knowledge. We pursue these questions in the laboratory and in the classroom, using behavioral methods as well as eye-tracking and ERPs to shed light on the cognitive processes involved in this important means of accumulation of knowledge.
Alena Esposito, Ph.D.
Alena joined the Bauer lab as a postdoctoral fellow in August 2014. She completed her doctorate in Developmental Psychology at North Carolina State University. Her doctoral dissertation focused on cognitive effects of second-language acquisition, specifically for memory and executive function. Her previous experience as an elementary educator encouraged her interest in cognitive development within the classroom context. Her current research is investigating learning across languages, such as in dual-language education models.
Natalie Merrill, Ph.D.
Natalie has been a postdoctoral fellow in the lab since June 2016. She earned her doctorate in the Cognition and Development program in the Department of Psychology at Emory University. For her doctoral dissertation she investigated intergenerational narratives, the stories of parents’ and grandparents’ memories passed down to their children. She continues to be interested in how individuals make sense of memories from their personal past and how social factors influence the processing of autobiographical memories.
Nicole Varga, Ph.D.
Nicole completed her doctorate in Cognitive and Developmental Psychology at Emory University in March 2016 and began her postdoctoral fellowship shortly thereafter. Through her undergraduate research at Ursinus College which focused on the importance of keeping episodes separate in memory to avoid memory errors, she became increasingly interested in the opposite question concerning how we integrate information in memory to construct a factual knowledge base. Using behavioral measures and electroencephalography (EEG) with children and adults, her Master’s and doctoral research examined the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying self-generation of new factual knowledge through integration of separate yet related episodes of new learning. Her current research continues to investigate the neurocognitive development of knowledge extension through memory integration, with particular emphasis on how brain-wide neuronal activity is coordinated to support this behavior, as well as how variability across individuals relates to academically-relevant achievement.
Jessica graduated from the Honors College at the College of Charleston in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a focus in behavioral neuroscience. She joined the Bauer lab in the fall of 2014. Broadly speaking, she is interested in the development of semantic memory in both humans and nonhuman primates. She is particularly fascinated by generative processes that allow for extension of knowledge and the role that metacognition plays in these processes. She studies these processes in school-aged children and adults using both behavioral and eye-tracking techniques. As a Mechanisms of Learning NRSA Fellow, she collaborates with Dr. Rob Hampton, and through this collaboration she is extending her work on self-generation and metacognition to rhesus monkeys using computerized cognitive testing.
Jillian received her Bachelor of Science with honors in psychology from Tulane University. In 2013, she began her graduate studies at Emory University, where she is a George W. Woodruff fellow. Jillian’s research focuses on the psychosocial factors that influence cognitive performance across the lifespan as well as the development of spatial and mathematical reasoning. She is particularly interested in the origins of individual and gender differences in spatial aptitude and their relation to educational outcomes. Her current interests include using behavioral, eye-tracking, and psychophysiological methods, along with meta-analytic techniques, to examine cognitive development in infants, school-aged children, and adults.