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Memory Research in an Era of Big Data



Prof. Tak Pan Wong

Prof. Tak Pan Wong

Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Faculty of Medicine
McGill University


1030-1130, 02 Oct 2018


SCT909, Cha Chi Ming Science Tower, Ho Sin Hang Campus


How memory is encoded, stored and retrieved in the brain is a fundamental question in different fields of brain research. Decades ago, we relied on clinical cases with brain damages or lesions to reveal which brain regions are crucial for learning and memory. Memory research has been facilitated by recent breakthroughs in recording technology, which allow longitudinally studying activities from hundreds of brain cells while memory is formed or recalled. These ‘big data’ approaches have provided opportunities for neuroscientists to decipher neuronal codes that underlie memory, to understand roles of memory in complex behaviors, and to develop novel treatments for brain diseases. Analyzing these big data however also raises challenges that cannot be easily addressed using traditional approaches, whereas computational methods in data mining and artificial intelligence are needed. In this talk, I will give an overview of recent advances in recording and data collection in the field of memory research. I will also present some examples of using these techniques to study memory in both physiological and disease settings, particularly the role of memory engrams in a brain disease called depression. Challenges ahead for leveraging big data in advancing memory research will be discussed.


Tak Pan Wong is an Associate Professor at McGill University and a principal investigator (PI) in the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, Canada. He is a senior scholar of Fonds de Recherche Santé of Québec (FRSQ). Papers from his group were published in major high impact journals in the field of neuroscience and psychiatry. As either PI or co-PI, his laboratory has been award over grants by various federal (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) and provincial funding agencies (FRSQ) of close to 3 million $CAD in the last 5 years. Using a combination of behavioral, electrophysiological and imaging approaches, his findings have contributed significantly to our current understanding of hippocampal changes at the synaptic and cellular levels in animal models of stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. Current interest of his lab includes the impact of stress on regulating synaptic and network function in the hippocampus, and roles of hippocampus engrams (cellular substrates for memory traces) in cognitive and emotional symptoms in animal models of depression and schizophrenia.