Research Interests


Out of the barrage of sensory stimuli that relentlessly impinge on our cerebra, we are able to direct our attention to those select details that are most relevant to our current behavioral goals. In doing so, we actively regulate the information encoded into, maintained in, or retrieved from memory. While attention and memory are often studied in isolation, our laboratory aims to understand their intimately intertwined relationship. 

Research in the Rissman Lab explores the influence of goal-directed attention on memory. We are interested in understanding how top-down attentional control processes govern which mental representations are maintained in an active state on a moment-to-moment basis while ensuring that distracting stimuli are appropriately ignored. And we are also interested in how an individual’s goals and associated attentional states serve to guide the formation of a more durable mnemonic record of select experiences, or facilitate the retrieval of specific details from one’s past. To characterize the neural systems subserving human memory and attention, we have developed and applied novel fMRI analysis techniques that exploit the richness of the data. Rather than simply using fMRI to isolate the functional contributions of individual brain regions, our work seeks to elucidate the role of dynamic interactions between brain regions as well as to decode the informational content of distributed brain activity patterns. We are also interested in understanding how the brain’s cognitive control circuitry changes with advancing age and what mechanisms allow individuals to compensate for these age-related changes. And the newest research direction of the lab is to investigate how virtual reality environments can be used to promote learning.

See Dr. Rissman’s Spotlight Feature on the UCLA Psychology Dept. website