Brandon Ally’s lab research interests involve using techniques of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience to understand how memory breaks down in healthy and diseased aging.
The functioning of brain systems can be measured in several ways during memory retrieval. Two methods used in Dr. Ally’s lab include examining behavioral performance through experimental and standard neuropsychological testing, and examining the electrical activity of the brain through scalp electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings. Behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) data provide different, and complementary information. While behavioral data informs the Ally lab about the patients' performance, the examination of ERPs allows them to record discrete changes in brain activity with a high degree of temporal resolution, without needing overt behavioral responses from participants. These recordings give them the unique opportunity to study the neural correlates of cognitive processes contributing to recognition memory (e.g., familiarity, recollection, post-retrieval monitoring processes) that have been previously associated with specific components of the ERP wave (e.g., early frontal effect, parietal effect, late frontal effect), respectively. ERPs permit these neural correlates to be characterized in terms of their timing, sensitivity to experimental manipulations, and intracerebral origins. In combination, the behavioral data and ERP recordings may contribute important information about which brain systems in mild Alzheimer's disease are dysfunctional and which are relatively intact. More recently, the Ally lab has been using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and eye-tracking to further understand changes in brain functioning in healthy and diseased aging.