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Neuromodulation of episodic memory - how stress influences Time In MEmory and perception

Project description

Unravelling the mechanisms of stress modulation of episodic memory

Episodic memory is the conscious recollection of a personal experience including what happened and when. Stress modulates the storage and retrieval of information but stress effects on memory have never been linked to time perception during a stressful experience. With the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the TIME project will develop the first model of stress effects on memory of events and time perception. An experimental approach including functional magnetic resonance imaging (measuring brain activity during a task by detecting changes associated with blood flow), pharmacological manipulation and virtual reality will shed light on the mechanisms of encoding, consolidation and retrieval of the ‘what’ and ‘when’ of stressful experiences.


Recent European data shows that stress shortens life expectancy by 2.8 years. Critically, it also affects the way we sense and remember everyday life. TIME presents a novel approach to a fundamental question in neuroscience: how stress affects our memory and perception of experience over time? Previous research disregarded the role of specific neuromodulators, studied stress effects selectively for a certain memory stage and used isolated stimuli rather than complex events in naturalistic contexts. Moreover, stress effects on memory have never been linked to time perception during a stressful experience. TIME addresses these critical gaps with an innovative combination of functional magnetic resonance (fMRI), a pharmacological manipulation and a novel experimental paradigm in virtual reality (VR). The project aims at building the first comprehensive model of stress effects on memory of events and perception of time. First, we hypothesize that a stress hormone cortisol released across all memory stages (encoding, consolidation, retrieval) affects our ability to separate overlapping episodes and segment our experience into events (WP1,WP2). Second, we hypothesize that a higher sampling rate of sensory input may result in a distorted sense of time and influence subsequent temporal memory (WP3). Involved mechanisms will be measured and verified at the behavioural, physiological (WP1,WP2,WP3), neural (WP2) and perceptual (WP3) level. I will carry out the research at CISA, Geneva (outgoing phase, supervised by prof. Rimmele, prof. Vuilleumier) and SISSA, Trieste (return phase, supervised by prof. Bueti), with short visits at Columbia University, NYC (prof. Davachi). Together, these world-leading centers offer a unique environment to make the project realistically achievable by bridging the gaps between neuropharmacology, neuroscience, psychophysics and psychophysiology. TIME will move basic and applied science forward, boost my academic or non-academic career prospects.



Net EU contribution
€ 297 164,16
Via bonomea 265
34136 Trieste

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Nord-Est Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
No data

Partners (1)