Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
psychology masthead
James W. Pennebaker, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

Alison R Preston

Associate Professor Ph.D., Stanford University

Alison R Preston

Contact

Biography

My research focuses on understanding memory and how it is implemented in the human brain. Using a combination of behavioral and brain imaging techniques, my research explores how we form new memories, how we remember past experiences, and how our memory for the past can influence our present behavior. The structures of the medial temporal lobe play a critical role in the formation, retention, and retrieval of memory. High-resolution functional neuroimaging techniques allow the exploration of how the structures within this region make unique contributions to memory processing and how these regions may interact with brain regions involved in perception, attention, emotion, and other cognitive processes.

See lab site for current VITA 

Selected representative publications (See lab site for full list of publications and PDF downloads)

Davis, T., Love, B.C., & Preston, A.R. (In press). Striatal and hippocampal entropy and recognition signals in category learning: Simultaneous processes revealed by model-based fMRI. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition.

Liang, J.C., Wagner, A.D. & Preston, A.R. (In press). Content representation in the human medial temporal lobe. Cerebral Cortex.

Chen, J., Olsen, R.K., Preston, A.R., Glover, G.H., & Wagner, A.D. (2011). Associative retrieval processes in the human medial temporal lobe: Hippocampal retrieval success and CA1 mismatch detection. Learning & Memory, 18(8), 523-528.

Davis, T., Love, B.C., & Preston, A.R. (2011). Learning the exception to the rule: Model-based fMRI reveals specialized representations for surprising category members. Cerebral Cortex, Epub ahead of print.

Dudukovic, N.M., Preston, A.R., Archie, J.J., Glover, G.H., & Wagner, A.D. (2011). High-resolution fMRI reveals match enhancement and attentional modulation in the human medial temporal lobe. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(3), 670-682.

Preston, A.R., Bornstein, A.M., Hutchinson, J.B., Gaare, M.E., Glover, G.H., & Wagner, A.D. (2010). High-resolution fMRI of content-sensitive subsequent memory responses in human medial temporal lobe. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(1), 156-173.

Zeithamova, D., & Preston, A.R. (2010). Flexible memories: Differential roles for medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex in cross-episode binding. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(44), 14676-14684.

Preston, A.R., Bornstein, A.M., Hutchinson, J.B., Gaare, M.E., Glover, G.H., & Wagner, A.D. (2009). High-resolution fMRI of content-sensitive subsequent memory responses in human medial temporal lobe. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Ragland, J.D., Cools, R.*, Frank, M.*, Pizzagalli, D.A.*, Preston, A.*, Ranganath, C.*, & Wagner, A.D.* (2009). CNTRICS final task selection: Long-term memory. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 35(1), 197-212. *Authors had equal contribution.

Preston, A.R., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2008). Dissociation between explicit memory and configural memory in the human medial temporal lobe. Cerebral Cortex, 18(9), 2192-207.

Preston, A.R., Shohamy, D., Tamminga, C.A., & Wagner, A.D. (2005). Hippocampal function, memory, and schizophrenia: Anatomical and functional neuroimaging considerations. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, 5(4), 249-256.

Preston, A.R., Shrager, Y., Dudukovic, N.M., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2004). Hippocampal contribution to the novel use of relational information in declarative memory. Hippocampus, 14(2), 148-152.

Preston, A.R., Thomason, M.E., Ochsner, K.N., Cooper, J.C., & Glover, G.H. (2004). Comparison of spiral-in/out and spiral-out BOLD fMRI at 1.5T and 3T. NeuroImage, 21(1), 291-301.

Gabrieli, J.D.E., & Preston, A.R. (2003). Working smarter not harder. Neuron, 37(2), 191-192.

Gabrieli, J.D.E., & Preston, A.R. (2003). Visualizing genetic influences on human brain function. Cell, 112(2), 144-145.

Preston, A.R., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2002). Different functions for different medial temporal lobe structures? Learning and Memory, 9, 215-217.

Interests

Cognitive neuroscience of memory, High resolution functional neuroimaging techniques exploring memory processing and interactions with other cognitive processes such as perception, attention, emotion, and decision making

PSY 341K • Cognitive Neuroscience

44050 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SEA 2.108
show description

Topics of contemporary interest that may vary from semester to semester. Three lecture hours a week for one semester. May be repeated for credit when the topics vary. Prerequisite: For psychology majors, upper-division standing and Psychology 301 and 418 with a grade of at least C in each; for nonmajors, upper-division standing, Psychology 301 with a grade of at least C, and one of the following with a grade of at least C: Biology 318M, Civil Engineering 311S, Economics 329, Educational Psychology 371, Electrical Engineering 351K, Government 350K, Mathematics 316, 362K, Mechanical Engineering 335, Psychology 317, Sociology 317L, Social Work 318, Statistics 309, Statistics and Scientific Computation 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 318.

PSY 341K • Cognitive Neuroscience

43400 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SEA 2.108
show description

Topics of contemporary interest that may vary from semester to semester. Three lecture hours a week for one semester. May be repeated for credit when the topics vary. Prerequisite: For psychology majors, upper-division standing and Psychology 301 and 418 with a grade of at least C in each; for nonmajors, upper-division standing, Psychology 301 with a grade of at least C, and one of the following with a grade of at least C: Biology 318M, Civil Engineering 311S, Economics 329, Educational Psychology 371, Electrical Engineering 351K, Government 350K, Mathematics 316, 362K, Mechanical Engineering 335, Psychology 317, Sociology 317L, Social Work 318, Statistics 309, Statistics and Scientific Computation 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 318.

PSY 341K • Cognitive Neuroscience

43236 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SEA 2.108
show description

COURSE OVERVIEW:

How do brain systems and processes result in our abilities to perceive, attend, remember, use language, experience emotion, and interact with one another? How is the brain structured and organized to handle different types of information? How can we study brain function underlying psychological processes and behavior? Cognitive Neuroscience has emerged to examine how complex psychological phenomena arise from the function of the brain.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

  • Learn human neuroanatomy

  • Learn about cognitive neuroscience techniques (e.g., fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological study of

    patients) and the pros/cons of different methods

  • Exposure to current theories and debates in Cognitive Neuroscience from how our brains perceive

    objects in the environment to the neural mechanisms that enable conscious thought

  • Become a critical consumer of scientific research through the evaluation of primary research

    articles and popular media coverage

  • Develop writing skills that target scientific and non-scientific audiences

  • Learn how to effectively present scientific research

    Students are encouraged to ask questions and become active learners.

PSY 341K • Cognitive Neuroscience

43750 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SEA 2.108
show description

COURSE OVERVIEW:

How do brain systems and processes result in our abilities to perceive, attend, remember, use

language, experience emotion, and interact with one another? How is the brain structured and

organized to handle different types of information? How can we study brain function underlying

psychological processes and behavior? Cognitive Neuroscience has emerged to examine how

complex psychological phenomena arise from the function of the brain.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

• Learn human neuroanatomy

• Learn about cognitive neuroscience techniques (e.g., fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological study of

patients) and the pros/cons of different methods

• Exposure to current theories and debates in Cognitive Neuroscience from how our brains perceive

objects in the environment to the neural mechanisms that enable conscious thought

• Become a critical consumer of scientific research through the evaluation of primary research

articles and popular media coverage

• Develop writing skills that target scientific and non-scientific audiences

• Learn how to effectively present scientific research

Students are encouraged to ask questions and become active learners.

PSY 341K • Cognitive Neuroscience-W

43905 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SEA 2.108
show description

Cognitive Neuroscience-W
Psychology 341K (Unique 43905)
Spring Semester 2010 
TTH 12:30-2:00, SEA 2.108
 
Instructor:
Professor Alison Preston    Office NMS 3.316 
apreston@mail.clm.utexas.edu   Office Hours T 3-4 or by appointment
 
Teaching Assistant:
Jenni Pacheco     Office SEA 2.210B
jpacheco@mail.utexas.edu    Office Hours T 2-3 and W 4-5
 
Course Overview:
How do brain systems and processes result in our abilities to perceive, attend, remember, use
language, experience emotion, and interact with one another?  How is the brain structured and
organized to handle different types of information?  How can we study brain function underlying
psychological processes and behavior?
 
Cognitive Neuroscience has emerged to examine how complex psychological phenomena arise from
the function of the brain. The first goal of the course is to provide students with current perspectives on
how complex processes of mind may be understood using Cognitive Neuroscience techniques (e.g.,
fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological study of patients). Students are encouraged to ask questions and
become active learners. The second goal of the course is to introduce students to the format and
content of research writing and presentation in psychological science. Beginning in the third week of the
course, students will complete weekly writing assignments reviewing an empirical paper and/or media
coverage regarding finding in Cognitive Neuroscience.  Once during the semester, student groups will
also be required to present the assigned empirical and popular press articles during class. Students will
complete a final term paper consisting of two parts: (1) a scientific literature review on a topic of their
choice that provides an in depth analysis of a current research question in Cognitive Neuroscience, and
(2) a 1-2 page ‘press release’ suitable for publication in the popular media.
 
Required Text:
Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience (2008), Sinauer Associates   
Purves, D., Brannon, E.M., Cabeza, R., Huettel, S.A., LaBar, K.S., Platt, M.L., & Woldorff, M.G.
 
Primary source journal and popular press articles as well as lecture materials will be posted on the
Blackboard system.  Students should check the course web site frequently.
 
Assignments and Grading:
Three short essay exams – 45% (15% each exam)
Weekly review papers (1-2 pages, double spaced) – 10%
Class presentation – 10%
Term paper proposal (1-2 pages, double spaced)
Draft of final term paper (10-15 pages, double spaced) - 10% (together with the Proposal)
Final term paper (10-15 pages, double spaced) – 25%
 
Exams
Three exams will follow each section of the course.  These exams will be given in class with the format
consisting of short essay questions covering the textbook, lecture, and primary source materials.
Cognitive Neuroscience-W
Psychology 341K (43905)
Spring Semester 2010
 
2
Students will be allowed to refer to their own notes during the exam (no textbooks however).  Each
exam will be worth 15% of the grade.
 
Weekly Review Papers
Beginning with the third week of class, each student will submit a brief written review of the assigned
empirical and popular press articles.  The review should be 1-2 double spaced pages briefly describing
your opinion of the topic, how the empirical article addressed the question, and how the research was
described in the media piece.  The review papers should not only cover the main goal of the research,
but some of the following additional questions: Did the authors select the optimal method and research
tools for achieving their goal?  What is you own opinion on the theory, approach, findings, or
conclusions of the paper?  Students are encouraged to specifically consider how well the research was
represented in the media coverage.  What aspects of the research were accurately described, and what
important aspects were omitted or distorted?  What is you opinion on the media coverage?
 
These assignments are due by 11 pm on each Monday beginning in the third week of class, and should
be emailed to BOTH the instructor and the course TA by this deadline.  The articles for consideration
will be posted on Blackboard.  These assignments will be marked as 0 = ‘no credit’/1 = ’credit’/2 =
’credit plus’.  These 12 weekly writing assignments will be worth 10% of the final grade.
 
Class Presentation
Each student will participate in a small group (2-3 students) presentation of weekly assigned empirical
work affiliated with the Weekly Review Papers.  These presentations will be assigned during the
second week of class to begin on Tuesday of the third week of class.  Presentations should be concise
and critical lasting 15-20 minutes. The presentation should focus on providing a clear presentation of
(a) Question – what is the main question the paper addresses, (b) Methods – how did the researchers
address this question (c) Results (d) Critique and Conclusions, and, if applicable, (e) How the media
coverage portrayed the findings.  The class presentation will be worth 10% of the final grade.
 
Term Paper
The final term paper will be a review paper focused on a topic of interest chosen by the student.  The
final paper will be 10-15 pages (double-spaced) in length, consisting of: (1) a scientific review of a topic
related to class discussions, and (2) a 1-2 summary of the topic suitable for publication in the popular
media.  A 1-2 topic proposal will be due in Week 8 of the course.  The proposal should provide a
summary of the central question to be addressed in the final paper as well as why the topic would be of
interest to the popular press.  Students are encouraged to discuss topic selection with the Instructor
and/or TA before submission of the proposal.  A full draft of the final paper will be due in Week 13 of the
course.  The research review should include an overview of the question and its importance, a
discussion of current theories surrounding the central question, empirical evidence addressing those
theories taken from primary sources (e.g., journal articles).  A student should review and reference at
minimum 5 journal articles.  Students should ensure that they properly reference all work and ideas
using APA style. A good overview of this style can be found at: 
http://www.docstyles.com/apacrib.htm#Rules.  Together with the Topic Proposal, the draft of the term
paper will be worth 10% of the final grade.
 
The Instructor and/or TA will provide written feedback on the draft term paper.  The final term paper
should make sure to address this feedback, and will be due during Finals Week.  Keep in mind that
while grading writing often seems a subjective process there is a lot that can be done to explain the
basis of the grade. Your goal when writing is to convince, not to fill. In this regard, just writing a lot does
not gain you a better grade. One must make a convincing argument, and this requires building the
background and clearly articulating the conclusions that can be drawn from that information. You can
Cognitive Neuroscience-W
Psychology 341K (43905)
Spring Semester 2010
 
3
also gain points for, among other things: clear concise writing, innovative thinking, anticipation and
countering of opposing view points, and/or a clear grasp of concepts we have covered. You can lose
points for, among other things: sloppy spelling and grammar (no excuse for this with spell and grammar
checking built into word processing software) or not understanding the concepts you are discussing.
Keep in mind that pages over the size range indicated above will not be read.  One point that cannot be
emphasized enough is that your writing must be YOUR own work. If you are unfamiliar with how you
should reference ideas then check with the instructor or the Undergraduate Writing Center (see below). 
The final term paper will be worth 25% of the final grade.
 
Undergraduate Writing Center:
I strongly encourage you to use the Undergraduate Writing Center, FAC 211, 471-6222:
http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/uwc. The Undergraduate Writing Center offers free, individualized,
expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. Any
undergraduate enrolled in a course at UT can visit the UWC for assistance with any writing project.
They work with students from every department on campus, for both academic and non-academic
writing. Whether you are writing a lab report, a resume, a term paper, a statement for an application, or
your own poetry, UWC consultants will be happy to work with you. Their services are not just for writing
with "problems." Getting feedback from an informed audience is a normal part of a successful writing
project. Consultants help students develop strategies to improve their writing. The assistance they
provide is intended to foster independence. Each student determines how to use the consultant's
advice. The consultants are trained to help you work on your writing in ways that preserve the integrity
of your work.
 
Prerequisites:
For Psychology Majors:
(a) PSY 301 with a C or better
(b) PSY 418 (or an equivalent listed in the course schedule) with a C or better
(c) Upper-Division standing (60 hours completed)
 
For Non-Psychology Majors:
(a) PSY 301 with a C or better
(b) One of the following courses with a C or better: Biology 318M, Civil Engineering 311S, Economics
329, Educational Psychology 371, Government 350K, Mathematics 316, Psychology 317, Sociology
317L, Social Work 318, Statistics 309
(c) Upper-Division standing (60 hours completed)
 
For Everyone:
(a) Deep curiosity about the brain and its relationship to cognitive functions!
 
Lecture Schedule:
Week Date Topic Textbook
Reading Assignment
W1
T 1/19 What is this course about?
Introduction to course topics and logistics  
 
TH 1/21 What is the brain?
Architecture and basic brain function Chapter 1 
W2
T 1/26 What do neurons do?
Neuronal structure and function Chapter 1;
Appendix 
 
TH 1/28 How do we study the link between brain, mind, and
behavior? Brain perturbations Chapter 3 
Cognitive Neuroscience-W
Psychology 341K (43905)
Spring Semester 2010
 
4
W3
T 2/2 How do we study the link between brain, mind, and
behavior? Measuring brain activity Chapter 3 Weekly
Paper (WP) 1
 
TH 2/4 How does the brain process sensory information?
Organization of sensory processing Chapter 4 
W4 2/9 How does the brain see?
Perceiving color and brightness Chapter 5 WP2
 2/11 How does the brain see?
Perceiving form, depth, and motion Chapter 5 
W5 2/16 How does the brain see?
Object and face perception TBA WP3
 2/18 How does the brain hear?
Auditory perception Chapter 6 
W6 2/23 How does the brain control movement?
Motor systems and motor control Chapters
8-9 WP4
 2/25 EXAM I  
W7 3/2 How does the brain attend?
Attentional effects on stimulus processing Chapters
10-11 WP5
 3/4 How does the brain attend?
Attentional control Chapter 12 
W8 3/9 How does the brain remember?
Memory from cells to systems Chapter 13 WP6; Topic
Proposal
Due
 3/11 How does the brain remember?
Declarative memory Chapter 14 
W9 3/16-
3/18 Spring Break  
W10 3/23 How does the brain remember?
Nondeclarative memory Chapter 15 WP7
 3/25 How does the brain remember?
Working memory Chapter 16 
W11 3/30 How does the brain support emotional experience?
Emotional influences on cognition Chapters
17-18 WP8
 4/1 EXAM II  
W12 4/6 How does the brain support interactions between
people? Social cognitive neuroscience Chapter 19 WP9
 4/8 How is cognition controlled?
Executive function and the frontal lobes Chapter 23 
W13 4/13 How do we make decisions?
Reward, feedback, and neuroeconomics Chapter 24 WP10; Draft
of Final
Paper Due
 4/15 How does the brain support symbolic representation?
Speech and language Chapters
20-21 
W14 4/20 How does experience change the brain?
Cognitive and neural development  Chapter 27 WP11
 4/22 How does the brain age?
Cognitive aging TBA 
W15 4/27 How has the brain evolved?
Evolutionary cognitive neuroscience Chapter 26 WP12
 4/29 How do we study consciousness and the brain? Chapter 28 
Cognitive Neuroscience-W
Psychology 341K (43905)
Spring Semester 2010
 
5
W16 5/4 Pulling it all together:
Summary and review  
 5/6 EXAM III  
Finals
Week 5/12 Final Term Paper Due by 5 pm  Final Paper
Due
 
 
The Standard of Academic Integrity:
A fundamental principle for any educational institution, academic integrity is highly valued and seriously
regarded at The University of Texas at Austin, as emphasized in the standards of conduct. More
specifically, you and other students are expected to "maintain absolute integrity and a high standard of
individual honor in scholastic work" undertaken at the University (Sec. 11-801, Institutional Rules on
Student Services and Activities). This is a very basic expectation that is further reinforced by the
University's Honor Code. At a minimum, you should complete any assignments, exams, and other
scholastic endeavors with the utmost honesty, which requires you to: 
• acknowledge the contributions of other sources to your scholastic efforts; 
• complete your assignments independently unless expressly authorized to seek or obtain
assistance in preparing them;
• follow instructions for assignments and exams, and observe the standards of your academic
discipline; and
• avoid engaging in any form of academic dishonesty on behalf of yourself or another student.
For the official policies on academic integrity and scholastic dishonesty, please refer to Chapter 11 of
the Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities.
Because writing is a major component of this course, it is important to understand how to appropriately
reference and acknowledge the sources used in your writing.  Plagiarism will not be tolerated for any of
the assignments including weekly papers, exams, drafts of paper, and final papers.  The University of
Texas defines plagiarism as “the appropriation of, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any means
material that is attributable in whole or in part to another source, including words, ideas, illustrations,
structure, computer code, or other expression or media, and presenting that material as one’s own
academic work being offered for credit.” In lay terms, plagiarism is using someone else’s work as your
own work without giving proper credit.  To understand how to properly cite and paraphrase the work
and ideas of others, a tutorial regarding plagiarism is available at:
http://www.lib.utexas.edu/services/instruction/learningmodules/plagiarism/ 
The University of Texas Honor Code: 
The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership,
individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the University is expected to uphold these
values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community. 
 
University Electronic Mail Notification Policy: 
All students should become familiar with the University's official e-mail student notification policy. It is
the student's responsibility to keep the University informed as to changes in his or her e-mail address.
Students are expected to check e-mail on a frequent and regular basis in order to stay current with
University-related communications, recognizing that certain communications may be time-critical. It is
recommended that e-mail be checked daily, but at a minimum, twice per week. 
Cognitive Neuroscience-W
Psychology 341K (43905)
Spring Semester 2010
 
6
 
Use of Blackboard in Class:
This course uses Blackboard, a Web-based course management system in which a password-
protected site is created for each course. (Student enrollments in each course are updated each
evening.) Blackboard can be used to distribute course materials, to communicate and collaborate
online, to post grades, to submit assignments, and to take online quizzes and surveys. 
 
You will be responsible for checking the Blackboard course site regularly for class work and
announcements. As with all computer systems, there are occasional scheduled downtimes as well as
unanticipated disruptions. Notification of these disruptions will be posted on the Blackboard login page.
Scheduled downtimes are not an excuse for late work. However, if there is an unscheduled downtime
for a significant period of time, I will make an adjustment if it occurs close to the due date.
 
Blackboard is available at http://courses.utexas.edu. Support is provided by the ITS Help Desk at 475-
9400 Monday through Friday 8 am to 6 pm, so plan accordingly. 
 
Disability Statement:
The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for
qualified students with disabilities.  For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at
471-6259, 471-4641 TTY.
 
Students who require special accommodations need to get a letter that documents the disability from
the Services for Students with Disabilities area of the Office of the Dean of Students (471-6259- voice
or 471 -4641 - TTY for users who are deaf or hard of hearing). This letter should be presented to the
instructor in each course at the beginning of" the semester and accommodations needed should be
discussed at that time. Five business days before an exam the student should remind the instructor of
any testing accommodations that will be needed. 
 
See Web site below for more information: 
http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/ssd/providing.php
 
Religious Holidays:
Religious holy days sometimes conflict with class and examination schedules. If you miss an
examination, work assignment, or other project due to the observance of a religious holy day you will be
given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence. It is the
policy of The University of Texas at Austin that you must notify each of your instructors at least fourteen
days prior to the classes scheduled on dates you will be absent to observe a religious holy day. 
 
Feedback:
Feedback is an important part of any learning. Without feedback on how well you understand the
material or your proficiency in a skill, it is more difficult to make significant progress. During this course I
will be asking you to give me feedback on your learning in informal as well as formal ways such as
assignments or exams. Please let me know when something we discuss is not clear. It will enable me
to provide additional information when needed or to explain a concept in different terms. 

PSY 341K • Cognitive Neuroscience-W

43175 • Spring 2009
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SEA 2.108
show description

Topics of contemporary interest that may vary from semester to semester. Three lecture hours a week for one semester. May be repeated for credit when the topics vary. Prerequisite: For psychology majors, upper-division standing and Psychology 301 and 418 with a grade of at least C in each; for nonmajors, upper-division standing, Psychology 301 with a grade of at least C, and one of the following with a grade of at least C: Biology 318M, Civil Engineering 311S, Economics 329, Educational Psychology 371, Government 350K, Mathematics 316, Psychology 317, Sociology 317L, Social Work 318, Statistics 309.

bottom border