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The objective of my team is to gain detailed insight in the neural circuitry that mediates the formation and retrieval of stable, long-lasting episodic memories

Research focus:
During learning, cellular and molecular changes take place that need to be stabilized in order for memory to be formed, stored and accurately retrieved. Although the neurobiological mechanisms that support the initial encoding and retrieval of learned associations received much attention, the processes that underlie the stabilization of new memories (<1 week old) into persistent remote memories (>3-4 weeks old) are poorly understood. Research by my team and others points to an important role of the cortex in expression of remote memories. However, little is known about the time-dependent contribution of the different cortical neuronal subtypes. Our ambition is to functionally dissect the spatial and temporal organization of long-lasting episodic memory in cortical circuitry.

To study memory formation and expression, we make use of mouse models of drug addiction (e.g. self-administration, conditioned place preference) and conditioned-fear. These models have in common that they produce stable memories that can persist for the life-time of the animal.

Technology:
To functionally dissect neuronal circuitries involved in persistent memory formation and retrieval, we make use of transgenic mouse lines and viral vector approaches. In particular, optogenetics and DREADD technology is used to selectively interfere with the activity of genetically-defined neuronal subpopulations in specific brain regions of awake behaving animals. Importantly, we also use these tools to connect molecular and cellular plasticity to behaviour.

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