Columbia University in the City of New York

Apr 3, 20246:30 pm

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture

Featuring Christopher Baldassano, PhD; Jennifer Manly, PhD; moderated by Julie Parato, PhD

April 3rd, 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm at Online

Register Here

Memory as Narrative Power

Memory ties together the many events we experience over the minutes, years, and decades of our lives. It creates meaning for the narratives that form our identity and the stories we tell each other. Simply put, it allows us to make sense of our world. How does the brain organize memories and shape these stories? What happens to these processes as we age, and how can we maintain a healthy mind across the lifespan? In this event, three experts in memory research will bring perspectives from cellular, cognitive, and clinical approaches to explore the narrative that memory helps us form.


Christopher Baldassano, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, will open our event by sharing insights from his research on the neural processes that underlie memory. How does memory give rise to our personal narrative of the world—one that we can continually incorporate new experiences into? What techniques can we use to better arrange and access the multitude of information in our minds? By studying the ways that people can remember things more effectively, he examines how we can push the limits of our memory systems. 


Jennifer Manly, PhD, Professor of Neuropsychology in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, will then present her work investigating the life course influences on cognition in older adults. In partnering with populations that have not traditionally been included in aging research, she uses methods tailored to measure memory among people with different cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds. Through examining risk and resilience factors for Alzheimer’s Disease, her research addresses a key concern in aging adults: holding onto the power to tell your story and have your story told.


Following the two talks, Julie Parato, PhD, Postdoctoral Scientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, will moderate a discussion and Q&A with the speakers. Audience questions are welcomed, either submitted during registration or live during the event.


About the experts


Christopher Baldassano, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Columbia University. He was an undergraduate in Electrical Engineering at Princeton University, received his PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University, and was a postdoc at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. His lab's research focuses on how knowledge about the world - including semantic knowledge, temporal structure, spatial maps, or schematic scripts - is used to understand and remember complex naturalistic experiences. By applying machine learning techniques to data from behavioral and neuroimaging experiments, Dr. Baldassano’s work aims to uncover how dynamic representations in the mind and brain during perception lead to the formation of event memories.


Jennifer Manly, PhD, is a Professor of Neuropsychology in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Her research focuses on mechanisms of inequalities in cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. Her research team has partnered with the Black and Latinx communities in New York City and around the United States to design and carry out investigations of structural and social forces across the lifecourse, such as educational opportunities, discrimination, and socioeconomic inequality, and how these factors relate to cognition and brain health later in life. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association, and she has authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and 10 chapters. She was the 2014 recipient of the Tony Wong Diversity Award for Outstanding Mentorship, was the recipient of the Paul Satz-International Neuropsychological Society Career Mentoring Award in 2020, and was named the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research Senior Mentor of the Year in 2022. Dr. Manly was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2021.

Julie Parato, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Scientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She completed her undergraduate degree at Drew University in Biology and Economics and earned her MS in Biology (Molecular track) from Long Island University. She went on to receive her PhD from SUNY Downstate in Neural and Behavioral Studies, where she studied synaptic pruning during puberty. Her research at Columbia University focuses on the role of the microtubule cytoskeleton as a driver of synapse loss and other disease pathologies in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Parato’s research interests continue to focus on synaptic pruning and exploring the role that cytoskeleton performs in maintaining synapses. Additionally, she has been working on a project to develop an open-source software for counting dendritic spines in ImageJ. Dr. Parato has received fellowships from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Italian Academy, as well as awards for teaching and mentoring.

Connect with us