Michael J. Kahana is a Professor in U. Penn’s Department of Psychology and Director of its Computational Memory Lab, where mathematical modeling and computational techniques are used to study human memory. The lab applies these quantitative methods both to data from laboratory studies of human memory and from electrophysiological studies involving direct human brain recordings in neurosurgical patients, with computational models then developed to explain the resulting data.
The lab is one of several in the world studying the electrophysiological responses of neurons through direct intracranial electroencephalographic (iEEG) recording from the living human brain. Such recordings can be obtained from epilepsy patients who have had electrodes surgically implanted on the cortical surface of the brain or through the medial temporal lobes (including hippocampus) as part of the clinical process of localizing seizure foci. By analysing how brain activity, including the responses of individual neurons, correlates with task variables, the lab is able to study the neurophysiological basis of memory with a high degree of spatial and temporal resolution. Current projects include studies of spatial navigation using a virtual taxi driver game, and computational modeling of the role of temporal context in visual and verbal memory.