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Using cognitive models to understand how semantic memory changes with impairment

IMC Tuesday Seminar: Talk by Michael Lee, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California Irvine

Info about event


Tuesday 5 December 2023,  at 10:30 - 12:00


Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1483, room 312 and online (https://aarhusuniversity.zoom.us/my/imcevent)


Interacting Minds Centre


Understanding how semantic memory changes because of impairment is a basic challenge for cognitive science, and an important question for society. A rich source of real-world behavioral evidence to address this challenge is provided by memory tests routinely administered in clinical care settings. We use tens of thousands of test results from two tasks in the Mild Cognitive Impairment Screen (MCIS). These tests were taken by thousands of people ranging from healthy controls to patients with different levels of impairment and dementia. The first memory task requires people to identify the “odd one out” of a set of three animal names. The second task is a surprise free recall of all of the animal names presented in the first task. We develop novel cognitive models of both the odd-one-out choices and the free recall behavior. This model-based approach allows us to test different hypotheses about whether and how semantic memory changes as impairment increases. For the odd-one-out task, contrary to previous claims, we find no evidence that the semantic representation of the animals changes. Instead, changes in performance can be explained in terms of worsening access to memory and the use of compensating response strategies. For the free recall task, we find that access to episodic information worsens with mild cognitive impairment but semantic information remains relatively more intact. As impairment progresses to dementia, however, access to semantic information is also lost. We emphasize how the use of cognitive models increases the theoretical insight into the changes in semantic memory, and provides a fine-grained clinical measurement capability that can be used in detection, diagnosis, and treatment.

About the speaker

Michael Lee, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California Irvine (joint work with Holly Westfall)

Free of charge - all are welcome