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Michael S. Cohen


Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Psychology
Northwestern University

Office: Cresap 309
E-mail: michael.cohen@northwestern.edu

Research Interests:

Michael’s work focuses primarily on how people strategically vary their encoding processes, either as a result of differing value between items, or based on what they know about the relative effectiveness of different strategies.

His dissertation work at UCLA used fMRI to examine how young adults and older adults selectively apply strategies to the learning of words.  That work found that both young and older adults engage inferior prefrontal and temporal regions more during high-value items, and these value-related differences correlate with how strongly value affects memory.  The similar engagement of the effective mechanism across age groups may help to explain why older adults are just as able to be selective as young adults in this paradigm.  Other behavioral work in the dissertation suggested that the use of multiple study-test cycles is important if value is to affect learning via explicit strategies. This explicitly strategic mechanism appears to be distinct from the dopamine-driven reward learning mechanism that has typically been the focus of related neuroscience literature.

At Northwestern, he is beginning to examine how value will affect the learning of stimuli for which implicit encoding tends to be more beneficial than explicit encoding.


2015 – Ph.D. in Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
Primary Mentors: Dr. Barbara Knowlton, Dr. Jesse Rissman, Dr. Alan Castel

2007 – M.S. in Psychology, Villanova University
Primary Mentor: Dr. Thomas Toppino

2005 – B.A. in Psychobiology, Swarthmore College


Hennessee, J.P., Reggente, N., Cohen, M.S., Rissman, J., Castel, A.D., Knowlton, B.J. (in press). White matter integrity in brain structures supporting semantic processing is associated with value-directed remembering in older adults. Neuropsychologia. PDF

Reggente, N., Cohen, M.S., Zheng, Z., Castel, A.D., Knowlton, B.J., and Rissman, J. (2018)  Memory recall for high reward value words correlates with individual differences in white matter pathways associated with reward processing and fronto-temporal communication. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 241. PDF

Cohen, M.S., Rissman, J., Hovhannisyan, M., Castel, A.D., Knowlton, B.J. (2017). Free recall test experience potentiates strategy-driven effects of value on memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43, 1581-1601. PDF  Supplemental material

Cohen, M.S., Rissman, J., Suthana, N.A., Castel, A.D., Knowlton, B.J. (2016). Effects of aging on value-directed modulation of semantic network activity during verbal learning. NeuroImage, 125, 1046-1062. PDF

Green, A.E., Cohen, M.S., Raab, H., Yedibalian, C.G., Gray, J.R. (2015). Frontopolar activity and connectivity support dynamic conscious augmentation of creative state. Human Brain Mapping, 36, 923-934. PDF 

Cohen, M.S., Rissman, J., Suthana, N.A., Castel, A.D., Knowlton, B.J. (2014). Value-based modulation of memory encoding involves strategic engagement of fronto-temporal semantic processing regions. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 14, 578-592. PDF

Cohen, M.S., Yan, V.X., Halamish, V., Bjork, R.A. (2013). Do students think that difficult or valuable materials should be restudied sooner, rather than later?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 1682-1696. PDF

Green, A.E., Cohen, M.S., Kim, J.U., Gray, J.R. (2012). Put your thinking cap on: An explicit cue improves creative analogical reasoning. Intelligence, 40, 598-603. PDF

Toppino, T.C. and Cohen, M.S. (2010). Metacognitive control and spaced practice: Clarifying what people do and why. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36, 1480-1491. PDF

Toppino, T.C., Cohen, M.S., Davis, M., Moors, A.C. (2009). Metacognitive control over distribu­tion of practice: When is spacing preferred?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35, 1352-1358. PDF

Toppino, T.C. and Cohen, M.S. (2009). The testing effect and the retention interval: Questions and answers. Experimental Psychology, 56, 252-257. PDF

Unpublished manuscript:

Cohen, M.S., Friedman, M.C., Soderstrom, N.C., Castel, A.D., & Bjork, R.A. (unpublished manuscript). Dissociations between learners’ predicted and actual effects of level of processing and assigned point value on subsequent memory performance. PDF

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