Melissa E Meade, PhD

I'm a Cognitive Neuroscientist currently working as an NSERC funded Postdoctoral Research fellow at the University of Toronto

I hold a BA from Mount Allison University where I completed a Double Major in Fine Arts and Honors Psychology, and an MA and PhD from the University of Waterloo in Cognitive Neuroscience. My research broadly spans investigations into episodic and autobiographical memory in younger and older adults, for which I have incorporated a number research techniques including behavioral tasks, virtual reality, neuroimaging, and technological interventions.

I also enjoy making art & crafting, cooking & baking, hiking & camping, and spending time with my dog & cats. Supporter of diversity in STEM/women in STEM, BLM, mental health awareness, and overall kindness.


Research Areas

Drawing & Memory

Along with my collaborators, I developed and termed the 'drawing effect' showing that memory is superior for words that are drawn, relative to written, during encoding. Even compared to creating a visual mental image of an object, viewing a picture of an object, creating random doodles, or thinking about the different features that compose an object, drawing always results in the best memory for information that you want to be able to later recall. This is likely because drawing promotes the integration of visual, motor, and semantic traces that support subsequent memory performance. I'm broadly interested in the multisensory nature of drawing, the way that we visually represent objects, and possible therapeutic applications of drawing.

Memory & Aging

In examining populations other than undergraduate students, I have found that both healthy aging older adults and individuals with cognitive decline due to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia also experience memory benefits from drawing, with an especially large drawing effect for healthy older adults. I suspect that these findings may be linked to the pattern of brain changes that occur in the normal healthy aging process, with relative preservation in regions recruited for drawing. I am currently investigating the brain basis of the drawing effect using neuroimaging, and am also interested in how these findings can be applied in long-term care homes for therapeutic purposes to prolong access to autobiographical memories in early stages of dementia.

Autobiographical memory & tech

In this line of work, I am examining how engaging in different types of events in daily life enhances memory, mood, and ability to place experiences in a temporal context. In this work I make use of a smartphone application called the “HippoCamera” which mimics the function of the brain’s hippocampus to stabilize and retrieve memories of everyday life events that participants actively record themselves. Results show that older adults experience greater episodic richness in memories of their personal experiences, are more accurate in placing events in a temporal context, and have increased mood, increased positive affect, increased mindfulness, decreased boredom, when actively engaging in unique, relative to routine, events. This work shows that partaking in non-routine events enhances episodic richness of those events and this enhancement reduces disorientation in time and improves well-being.