Two WashU faculty awarded Sloan Research Fellowships

Two Washington University in St. Louis faculty members have been awarded prestigious early-career fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Zachariah Reagh, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and Gaia Tavoni, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine, were among 126 scientists selected for the 2024 Sloan Research Fellowship, which provides $75,000 to each investigator to support basic science research.

Zach Reagh and Gaia Tavoni
Reagh (left) and Tavoni

Reagh’s research looks at how the human brain parses, stores and retrieves dynamic experiences, then looks at how those processes change in healthy aging and with age-related pathology, such as Alzheimer’s disease. To explore this research, the Complex Memory Lab uses realistic stimuli, such as movies and stories, in combination with behavioral experiments and neuroimaging techniques. Recent studies in the lab focus on different brain networks’ distinct contributions to building memories for events as well as the selective vulnerabilities of these networks in neurocognitive aging.

Tavoni studies how information is encoded and processed in neural networks and the mechanisms that optimize these functions. Her recent work has unveiled fundamental principles guiding decision making, specifically the trade-offs between faster but less accurate mental processes and cognitively demanding but more accurate strategies. Such trade-offs are required when we make inferences about the world from noisy streams of data. Another line of research investigates the processes that regulate how sensory stimuli are encoded by neural activity patterns. She has developed a theory that predicts how coding of smells in complex environments is influenced by inputs from the senses.

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