Congratulations to Maria who just got awarded a 5-year, €1.5 Mio research grant from the European Research Council. The project aims to uncover the neural processes and spatio-temporal dynamics of memory reconstruction. Most memory researchers would agree that our memories are not truthful recounts of past experiences, and that remembering is a reconstructive process that is heavily influenced by our expectations and prior knowledge. How exactly this reconstruction takes place, step-by-step, in the brain, however, is still unknown. Maria's team will use advanced brain imaging techniqes to track the re-emergence of different features of memories in real-time, based on distributed patterns of brain activity. These techniques make it possible to observe how the process of remembering unfolds in time, and how our memories change over time when we repeatedly bring them back to mind.
How does the brain transform brief experiences into lasting memory traces? Dr. Staresina has been awarded the prestigious Sir Henry Dale Fellowship, conjointly funded by the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust, to investigate episodic memory processes during post-learning offline periods. These time windows (entailing both sleep and awake rest) appear to constitute a critical period for new memory traces to solidify. Dr. Staresina’s research will employ intracranial Electroencephalography (iEEG), high-field functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) to systematically elucidate how the hippocampus, a key region for intact memory, processes previous experiences during offline periods and re-distributes them throughout the brain in the service of successful memory formation.
Dr Jonathan Lee has recently begun a new £605k grant funded by the Medical Research Council. The focus of the project will be on instrumental cocaine memory reconsolidation. We will be building on our recent work showing that instrumental sucrose memories (the memories that support a rat pressing a lever for a sucrose reward) do undergo reconsolidation, and so can be impaired to reduce reward-seeking. The new project will seek to translate these findings to models of cocaine addiction, in order to test whether such an approach can reduce relapse to cocaine seeking. Dr Marc Exton-McGuinness has returned to Birmingham in order to lead the research on this project.