Jordan Poppenk

Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroimaging

Tier 2 - 2014-07-01
Renewed: 2019-07-01
Queen's University
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Coming to Canada From

Princeton University, United States

Research involves

Studying human memory and how it reflects brain function, our traits and abilities, and how we think.

Research relevance

This research will reveal more about how individuals think and remember, contributing to basic science, personalized mental health, and the interpretation of eyewitness memory.

Marking Our Memory-Based Differences

The hippocampus in the human brain is widely seen as crucial for human memory. But before research by Dr. Jordan Poppenk, scientists did not generally distinguish between the anterior and posterior parts of the hippocampus. Today, this distinction is recognized as one of the keys to understanding how the structure works.

As Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroimaging, Poppenk is building on this distinction to understand how memory may differ among individuals. For example, while the anterior hippocampus may support a more “gist-like” memory, the posterior hippocampus is better at retaining details. A person with a larger posterior might be better able to retain perceptual information.

This distinction may also affect other aspects of who we are. For example, the upside for a person with a “fuzzier” memory may be that they also remember things more readily. When they see a wedding veil, they may be the first to remind everyone of the time Uncle Bradley knocked the bride into the pool. On the other hand, this capacity may also make them more prone to distraction.

Poppenk and his research team are using insights like these to develop new tools to evaluate the way we think. In a future where brain imaging is more commonplace, these tools may have a number of uses. For example, they may help juries interpret eyewitness evidence, employers review potential job candidates, and mental health clinicians select the best treatments for patients.