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    Real-world memory and the brain


    How do we construct and retrieve memories of complex real-world episodes? In this research we use realistic stimuli (such as movies and narratives) and behaviors (such as spoken recall) that contain rich natural semantics and unfold continuously across multiple timescales. Employing temporal and spatial pattern analysis methods with functional brain imaging data, we ask how mnemonic and sensory systems operate together dynamically to create the present moment.



    In the mind, the present moment is a convergence point of two information streams: one, a continuous flow of sensory input from the outside world; and two, a series of elements from our past experiences, i.e., memories. Memories may be triggered by sensory stimuli, they may themselves cue more memories, and they may change the way incoming stimuli are interpreted, all of which become part and parcel of our current experience.


    Past information casts an influence across multiple timescales: events that occurred a moment ago, a minute ago, and a day ago may all impact the present. In order to understand how the mind and brain work, we need an account of how memories of past events, across multiple timescales, continuously influence and merge with ongoing perception and behavior.


    Studying real memory requires using real stimuli. Scientists often trade realism for control; we use lists or configurations of random items, attempting to isolate selected variables. However, this approach can strip away the very richness and complexity that made memory such a compelling topic in the first place, and cause us to neglect phenomena that emerge only when stimuli are as dynamic and detailed as the real world.


  • Publications

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    • Lee H, Chen J (2022). Narratives as networks: Predicting memory from the structure of naturalistic events. Nature Communications. [link]

    • Lee H, Chen J (2022). A generalized cortical activity pattern at internally-generated mental context boundaries during unguided narrative recall. ELife. [link]

    • Musz E, Chen J (2022). Neural signatures of compression in the retelling of past events. Communications Biology. [link]

    • Nastase SA, Liu Y-F, Hillman H, Zadbood A, Hasenfratz L, Keshavarzian N, Chen J, Honey J, Yeshurun Y, Regev M, Nguyen M, Chang CHC, Baldassano C, Lositsky O, Simony E, Chow MA, Leong YC, Brooks PP, Micciche E, Choe E, Goldstein A, Vanderwal T, Halchenko YO, Norman KA, Hasson U (2021). The “Narratives” fMRI dataset for evaluating models of naturalistic language comprehension. Scientific Data. [link]

    • Leong YC, Chen J, Willer R, Zaki J (2021). Conservative and liberal attitudes drive polarized neural responses to political content. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [link]

    • Lee H, Bellana B, Chen J (2020). What can narratives tell us about the neural bases of human memory? Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. [link]

    • Zuo X, Honey CJ, Barense MD, Crombie D, Norman KA, Hasson U, Chen J (2020). Temporal integration of narrative information in a hippocampal amnesic patient. NeuroImage. [PDF]

    • Sadeh T, Chen J, Y Goshen-Gottstein, Moscovitch M (2019). Overlap between hippocampal pre-encoding and encoding patterns supports episodic memory. Hippocampus. [PDF]

    • Aly M, Chen J, Turk-Browne N, Hasson U (2018). Learning naturalistic temporal structure in the posterior medial network. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. [PDF]

    • Baldassano C, Chen J, Zadbood A, Pillow JW, Hasson U, & Norman KA (2017). Discovering event structure in continuous narrative perception and memory. Neuron. [PDF]

    • Zadbood A, Chen J, Leong YC, Norman KA, & Hasson U (2017). How we transmit memories to other brains: constructing shared neural representations via communication. Cerebral Cortex. [PDF]

    • Chen J*, Leong YC*, Honey CJ, Yong CH, Norman KA, Hasson U (2017). Shared memories reveal shared structure in neural activity across individuals. Nature Neuroscience. (*co-authorship) [PDF]

    • Chen J, Honey CJ, Simony E, Arcaro MJ, Norman KA, Hasson U (2016). Accessing real-life episodic information from minutes versus hours earlier modulates hippocampal and high-order cortical dynamics. Cerebral Cortex. [PDF]

  • Datasets

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    Film Festival





    Lee, Chen, & Hasson (2023) Data in Brief

    Lee & Chen (2022) Nature Communications [link]

    Lee & Chen (2022) ELife [link]




  • People

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    Janice Chen

    Principal Investigator

    Assistant Professor

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    Rolando Masís-Obando


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    Yoonjung Lee

    Graduate Student

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    Xian Li

    Graduate Student

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    Brian Winston

    Graduate Student

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    Flory Huang

    Graduate Student

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    Sammy Tavassoli

    Graduate Student

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    Colette Youstra

    Lab Manager

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    Kahlyn Eckles

    Lab Manager

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    Anna Hu

    Postbac Research Assistant

    Undergraduate Research Assistants

    Hannah Fu
    Jordan Holleran
    Nicole Ni
    Sophia Lin
    Akaash Suresh
    Iris Lee 
  • Lab Alumni


    Lisa Musz - Scholar page

    Buddhika Bellana - https://www.bellanalab.com/

    Hongmi Lee - https://sites.google.com/view/lmclab


    Research Staff:
    Zoey Zuo - Scholar page

    Savannah Born - Scholar page


    Graduate Students:

    Yoonjin Nah

    Peter Johnson

    Yiyuan Zhang (BME masters) - https://moralitylab.bc.edu/people/yiyuan-zhang/


    Undergraduate Researchers:

    Qingwei Zhang

    Amanda Liu

    Kenz Wilkinson

    Edward Halpin

    Katelyn Macholl

    Elly Yeom

    Subin Han

    Michelle Rodriguez

    Paulina Medina

    Ria Gualano

    Elizabeth Im

    Kathy Shi - Scholar page

    Sydney Baek

    Ben Du

    Josh (Euikwang) Kim

  • Positions Available

    Not actively recruiting.


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