Michael D. Rugg, Ph.d.


Principal Investigator


Michael Rugg, ph.d. | principal investigator

Office: 972-883-3725
Email: mrugg@utdallas.edu

Michael Rugg obtained his BSc and PhD in psychology from the University of Leicester, UK. Following a postdoctoral year at the University of York, in 1979 he was appointed to a lectureship in psychology at the University of St Andrews, where he went on to become Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Department. In 1998 he moved to the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London as Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, where he remained until 2003, when he moved to the University of California, Irvine as a Professor of Neurobiology and director of The Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. In 2011 he moved to the University of Texas, Dallas as Distinguished Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences and is currently director of UTD’s Center for Vital Longevity. He also has fractional professorial appointments in the department of psychiatry, UTSW Medical Center and the department of psychology, University of East Anglia in the UK.


Professional recognition includes Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for Psychological Science. He is past-chair of the Cognition and Perception study section of the Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, and current chair of the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory study section.


Dr Rugg’s principal research interests are in the cognitive neuroscience of human memory, and how and why memory is affected as we age and as a result of disease, especially diseases of old age. He uses functional neuroimaging, electroencephalography and transcranial magnetic stimulation to identify the neural regions and the patterning of their functional activity that allow memories to be acquired and retrieved. His research addresses fundamental questions about how we learn and remember, and translational issues such as identifying people most at risk of developing disorders of memory in later life. Currently funded research projects focus of the neural mechanisms of memory encoding and retrieval, and on the brain basis of individual differences in memory function across the lifespan.

Research Scientists


Marianne De Chastelaine, ph.d. | research scientist

Office: 972-883-3780
Email: mdechast@utdallas.edu

Marianne received her PhD in Psychology from University College London where she investigated episodic memory retrieval processes in young adults using event-related potentials (ERPs). Her post-doctoral work has mainly involved large scale studies employing functional neuroimaging techniques (fMRI and EEG), as well as structural imaging (MRI), to investigate the development and maturation of episodic memory encoding and retrieval processes across the lifespan.


Wei Wang, ph.d. | Visiting research scientist

Email: Wei.Wang@Utdallas.edu

Wei received his PhD in Psychology from Capital Normal University in China. His doctoral research focused on the interactions between implicit memory and recognition memory. Currently, he is interested in how episodic memory is affected by aging. Outside the lab, he enjoys swimming, playing badminton and watching movies.

Post Doctoral Researchers


Paul Hill, Ph.d. | Post doctoral Researcher

Office: 972-883-3771
Email: paul.hill@utdallas.edu

Paul received his PhD in biological psychology from Virginia Tech in 2017. His research combines behavioral, neuroimaging, and neurostimulation disciplines to better understand the cognitive processes and neural substrates supporting episodic memory and decision making. He is particularly interested in how these processes change with advancing age.


Mingzhu Hou, Ph.d. | Post doctoral Researcher

Office: 972-883-3781
Email: mingzhu.hou@utdallas.edu

Mingzhu received her BS from Binzhou Medical University, her master’s from Capital Normal University in China, and her Ph.D in Psychology from the University of Arizona. Her research interests include memory changes in aging from both psychological and neural perspectives, and strategies to enhance cognitive performance in older adults. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and watching movies.


Erin Horne, Ph.D. | Post Doctoral Researcher

Office: 972-883-3765
Email: erin.horne@utdallas.edu

Erin holds a BA in German and Linguistics from the Metropolitan State University of Denver with MS and a PhD in Cognition and Neuroscience from UT Dallas. Currently, her research focuses on identifying the neural correlates of episodic memory retrieval associated with healthy aging. Specifically, she has investigated the neural correlates of recollection (retrieval of contextual details from a study episode) and post-retrieval monitoring (online evaluation of retrieved information in service of task goals), and how these effects are modulated by increasing task demands in younger and older adults. A classically trained double bassist, Erin enjoys playing with the New Texas Symphony Orchestra (an all-volunteer group), improving her hand-lettering skills, and spending time with her enthusiastic dog Emma.

Doctoral Students


Saad Ali Alghamdi, MS | Doctoral Student

Office: 972-883-3771
Email: saad.alghamdi@utdallas.edu

Saad received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia. After graduation, he was offered a position as a faculty member at the department of Psychology in King Saud University and was awarded a scholarship to pursue his Master and PhD degree abroad. In 2012, he came to the United States and studied English as a Second Language (ESL) in the state of Oregon for about two years before moving to Dallas to pursue a Master of Science in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience. At the time, he completed an internship in the Functional Neuroimaging of Memory Laboratory with Dr. Michael Rugg and was also volunteering as a Research Assistant in the NeuroPsychometric Research Lab with Dr. Bart Rypma. After earning his Master’s degree, he joined the Cognition and Neuroscience PhD program in 2017. Saad has always been interested in how the brain works.  His current research is focused on episodic memory and the impact of healthy aging and neurodegenerative diseases on cognition.


E. Song Liu, MS | Doctoral Student

Office: 972-883-3763
Email: Eleanor.Liu@utdallas.edu

Song received her MA in Organizational Pychology from Claremont Graduate University, CA. Her current research focus on understanding age related differences during preparatory stage of episodic encoding. Outside the lab, she enjoys reading, painting, traveling, photography, and other fun things.


Sabina Srokova, BS | Doctoral Student

Office: 972-883-3777
Email: sabina.srokova@utdallas.edu

Sabina graduated from the University of Essex (UK) in 2017 with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. Sabina was involved in numerous research labs at Essex, but she had an especially rewarding experience working in the Memory and Aging Lab, where she developed her interest in the aging mind. Her current research interests include the cognitive and neural bases of age-related differences in memory and the effects of prior knowledge on episodic memory function. In her spare time, Sabina enjoys painting, being active at her local gym, and trying out new recipes.


Derek Lehtonen, BA | Doctoral Student

Office: 972-883-3200
Email: derek.lehtonen@utdallas.edu

Derek received his BA in psychology in 2015 from Texas A&M University. He is currently a PhD student in Systems Neuroscience and is co-advised by Dr. Christa McIntyre Rodriguez and Dr. Michael Rugg. He researches emotional memory in animal models and in humans. In his spare time he likes to listen to music, draw, and play competitive fighting games.

Masters Students


Aishwarya Sri Kandakumar, BS | Masters Student

Office: 972-883-3200
Email: AishwaryaSri.KandaKumar@utdallas.edu

Aishwarya Sri Kandakumar has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering. She is currently enrolled in the MS Applied Cognition and Neuroscience program at UT Dallas. Aishwarya worked with music perception and cognition using EEG during her undergraduate studies. Her research interests are neuroimaging, cognition and memory. She also engages in other extra-curricular activities like dancing, binge watching shows on Netflix, and is a Marvel fanatic.


Kalynn Carpenter, BS | Masters Student

Email: Kalynn.Carpenter@utdallas.edu

Kalynn received her BS in Psychology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2018. She focused on the neuroscience behind trauma, and pursued a myriad research interests. She often took classes for fun, so she took everything from anthropology to human anatomy and physiology courses in order to approach research from various lens. She studied PTSD in the hopes to help vulnerable populations. She also completed multiple experiments in non-visual haptic spatial processing and perception with Dr. Laura Cacciamani. With their team, they presented at APS in San Francisco, and are in the works of getting published. She examined trauma’s affects on the brain and body, finding relationships between HPA axis development and trauma, but also more bodily functions like elevated heart rate and sensitivity/reactivity. From here, she studied and postulated connections between memory, REM sleep and EMDR therapy. This led her to Dr. Michael Rugg’s lab, where she is now conducting research into emotion-based memory under Derek Lehtonen. She is working towards a MS, with the hope to later pursue a PhD-MD, where she can apply research-based practices in a medical setting. Her current interests are emotion-based memory and the neurobiology behind the effects of impoverished environments. In her spare time, she likes learning new skills, such as coding, painting, and photography; as well as traveling, playing with pets, video games and Netflix. She also loves reading, writing and editing, and likes to help others edit their papers.

Research Assistants


Seham Kafafi, MS | Lab Manager

Office: 972-883-3735
Email: seham.kafafi@utdallas.edu

Seham earned her master’s degree in the Neuroscience and Clinical Applications of Mindfulness from King’s College London and her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the American University in Cairo.  Originally trained in community-based participatory research, Seham’s interests shifted after studying cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging during her master’s studies.  Her thesis was on the neural effects of mindful attention on startle habituation to understand how mindfulness practice impacts sensory information processing.  Seham worked in industry for 3 years, gaining experience in project management, before joining the fNIM lab as the lab manager. Her current research interests include memory and psychopathology.


Melanie Racenstein, BS | Research Assistant

Office: 972-883-3748
Email: m.racenstein@utdallas.edu

Mel graduated from the University of Michigan in 2018 with a BS in Spanish and a BS in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience. She currently works as a Research Assistant, assisting with recruitment, neuropsychological assessments and other tasks. Her research interests include healthy aging with the eventual goal to move into pathological aging in the medical field. In her spare time, she enjoys experimenting with cooking, walking dogs, and exercise.


Chris Hawkins, MA | Research Assistant

Office: 972-883-3736
Email: chris.hawkins@utdallas.edu

Chris completed his MA Psychological Research at Texas State University in 2016 where he studied the electrophysiological correlates of memory consolidation over time. As an undergraduate, he used EEG to examine episodic memory changes related to specific stages of sleep. Before arriving at UTD, Chris worked in neurosurgery research at the UT Health Science Center, looking at the effects of lowering body temperature on recent traumatic brain injury patients, as well as examining the behavioral and genetic factors that lead to optimal and suboptimal outcomes for patients who suffered aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhages of differing severities.

Amber Kidwai, MS

Amber Kidwai, MS | Research Assistant

Office: 972-883-3778
Email: amber.kidwai@utdallas.edu

Amber graduated from University College London with a BS degree in Psychology, and then received a MS degree in Occupational (I/O) Psychology from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. She spent a year working at the UT Dallas Center for Brain Health in the Computational Psychiatry Unit where she investigated the effects of drug addiction on decision making in the brain, measured using fMRI. She then Joined the fNIM lab as a Research Assistant in fall 2018 and is working on projects investigating the effects of aging on memory. Her primary interests are cognitive neuropsychology, brain disease and brain disorders.