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.
Fiona McNab and her co-workers collected data from 29,000 players of a smartphone game has revealed changes to the way information is held in mind as we get older. The conducted study showed that as a compensation for information held in mind being more vulnerable to distraction, older adults seem to approach the task of putting information in mind as if distractors were present.
1.9 million euro ERC grant awarded to Simon Hanslmayr to explore memory coding in human brains. Episodic memory is the time machinery that allows us to mentally travel back in time in order to relive past experiences, often in great sensory detail. These memories are highly associative and very information rich, but how are these memories coded in human brains? Neural oscillations, regulating the synchrony of neural assemblies, are ideally suited to accomplish these two functions, but it is still unclear how synchronization and desynchronization are orchestrated in neural networks to achieve persistent memory. This is the question tackled by Simon and his team in this ERC-funded project.
Maria Wimber, together with researchers at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, has been able to track how individual memories are forgotten in the human brain. The study was recently published in Nature Neuroscience (doi:10.1038/nn.3973), and attracted much media interest, including the New York Times, the BBC, and the Guardian.