MEGAN H. PAPESH
I'm an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at New Mexico State University, having spent 8 years at Louisiana State University (why get tenure once when you can do it twice?).
My lab investigates human cognitive processes, including the dynamics of episodic memory creation and retrieval (and how those memories influence visual attention), unfamiliar face perception/recognition, and the influence of contextual statistics and LC-NE system activity on attention and perception. We approach these topics using convergent techniques; we use classic behavioral paradigms, but also more modern tools, including eye-tracking, mouse-tracking, pupillometry, and single-unit recording. Our overarching goal is to develop a richer theoretical and applied understanding of the processes by which episodic memory influences real-time cognitive processes.
Please note: This website is (perpetually) under construction.
SOME RECENT (ACCEPTED/PUBLISHED) RESEARCH
See the Cool New Stuff page for not-yet-published items!
Former EMMA Lab Master's Student Arianna Thoksakis (now a PhD student at University of Nevada, Reno!) and I recently published a non-empirical article geared toward kids about why people sometimes see, feel, or hear ghosts. It's not just for kids, though! You can read it in Frontiers for Young Minds and use it to be the life of Halloween parties!
Recently in press at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we (Urgolites et al.) examined single-cell neural activity during an old/new recognition memory test. Although prior research has found that neural responses to memory reflect either a generic familiarity signal or a specific episodic recollection signal, we found that both signals can be detected in hippocampal neurons. More specifically, all brain areas from which we recorded (hippocampus, PFC, amygdala, ACC) showed greater activity to old than new words. Only hippocampal neurons exhibited a sparse recollection signal, as shown below. This replicates a pattern we have often observed in single-cell studies of memory.
As published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, a multi-university collaborative team and I examined the oculomotor changes that accompany expertise development. Across 14 sessions throughout an academic semester, observers completed a hybrid search task, looking for real-world objects from 20 memorized categories in displays containing 0 - 3 targets. Although lots of behaviors change with expertise (e.g., accuracy, response time), we think the coolest was participants' functional viewing fields (FVF). The FVF is the width of the attentional window, so to speak, in which people can process information with high resolution. The FVF is subject to change, however, and can even change within a search trial. As shown below, we found that the FVF changes as expertise develops, allowing observers to take in more visual information within each fixation.