Intrusive memories in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive recollections, are amongst the most devastating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whereas these memories are extremely vivid and highly emotional, but they lack temporal context, being reexperienced as if they were happening in the present. The declarative content also seems to be fragmented and is characterised by impaired factual recall (e.g., on the surrounding context). As such, PTSD patients seem to be characterized by an aberrant trauma memory.
In this project, part of the VIDI grant awarded to Henckens, we aim to investigate the differences between adaptive vs. maladaptive (aberrant) trauma memory by investigating the memory engram in a mouse model for PTSD. This project focusses on the differences in behavioural recollection, whole brain distribution of the engram, as well as its regulation by epigenetic factors.
Experimentally, you will use an established mouse model for PTSD-induction, which has been shown to reliably induce PTSD-like symptomatology - i.e., hypervigilance, insomnia, compulsivity, and impaired attention and risk assessment - in a subset of mice, whereas others do not show any of these behaviours and are resilient. Contrasting these two behavioural phenotypes, you will investigate the neural ensembles representing the trauma memory engram, its reactivation by varying experimental conditions, together with its epigenetic regulation.
Specifically, you will learn to design, perform, and analyse behavioural animal experiments, as well as molecular tools of immunohistochemistry (and fluorescence imaging), iDISCO+, light sheet imaging and analyses of whole brain neuronal activity patterns. You will collaborate with scientists with varying disciplines, participate in international conferences, and prepare manuscripts for publication as well as a thesis at the end of the project.
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