John Jonides, Ph.D.
Daniel J. Weintraub Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Co-Director, Functional MRI Laboratory
Associate Editor, Psychological Science
Department of Psychology
University of Michigan
530 Church St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1430
Research in the Jonides lab focuses on behavioral and brain mechanisms of cognitive control as well as on the implementation of these mechanisms in higher level cognitive skills and the dysfunction of these mechanisms in various pathologies. The laboratory uses both experimental behavioral techniques such as measures of response time and accuracy, and brain measurements and interventions such as functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation to conduct its investigations. All the studies in the lab are conducted on normal or pathological populations of younger and older adults and children.
One example of research in the laboratory concerns mechanisms of cognitive control and their dysfunction in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Several studies in the lab have identified behavioral and brain mechanisms that allow us to control the contents of our short-term memories. This skill is an important one in that the contents of short-term memory reflect the information currently being processed in the service of ongoing cognition. Depressed individuals show deficits in being able to rid their short-term memories of certain kinds of information, often negative in affect. This deficit in ridding information, in turn, leads to the sort of rumination about negative events that characterizes the disorder. The laboratory has identified the brain mechanisms that are deficient in MDD patients that lead to rumination, and there are ongoing studies to identify the consequences of this deficit for task performance and for other aspects of the lives of these patients. In addition, this line of research is also exploring therapeutic interventions and the brain mechanisms that may be affected by these interventions.
The research in the laboratory extends well beyond studies of depression, however. Other lines of research include training mechanisms of cognitive control to achieve gains in other cognitive skills, such as fluid intelligence. Overall, the laboratory’s work focuses on fundamental mechanisms of cognition and applies what we know about these mechanisms to translational problems.