Working memory, the ability to maintain information needed for performance of an ongoing task, is a key ability that enables effective goal directed behavior. Despite intensive research within cognitive neuroscience of working memory, many questions remain open. The aim of the proposed project is to address in detail three related research areas. First, what is the nature of integration of information within visual working memory, and integration of visual and spatial information, and to what extent the later relate to EEG correlates of working memory load. Second, what is the nature of relationship between processing of emotional stimuli and working memory. Specifically, can their appropriate integration increase the robustness and precision of the maintained information in working memory. And third, to what extent and how does dysfunction of emotional processing in depression affect the ability of cognitive control and information maintenance in working memory. The chosen themes do not only address the existing research questions but by their combination and introduction of innovative paradigms open new lines of research and bridge the classical separation of research areas.
We wish to address the presented questions using an integrated approach to research in which we plan to extend behavioral studies of working memory by the use of electroencephalography (EEG) and functional brain imaging (fMRI), as we believe that only by relating different methods and levels of observation we can gain a comprehensive understanding of cognitive processes and abilities. This will enable us to extend the current research questions and findings with novel approaches and insights. Especially in the area of functional brain imaging we are also introducing new advance methods of functional connectivity analysis, which we have developed intensively in recent years.
Similarly, we believe that the study of cognition in health needs to be accompanied by its study in disease to enable better validation of results as well as ensure their practical value. Here as well, we are introducing novel research approaches and analytical methods for which we have demonstrated their informative value on similar areas of research. Their integration will enable better understanding of the cognitive and brain systems and mechanisms involved in the area of working memory and emotional processing.
The task is being tackled by an interdisciplinary research group that includes established experts as well as young researchers from the fields of psychology, neurology and psychiatry and brings extensive knowledge and experience with the use of planned research methods to addressing the chosen research questions.