Quick Project Snapshot
Early life stress and regulation of forgetting
Early life experiences play a pivotal role in shaping personality and psychosocial functioning into adulthood. For example, early life adversity in humans is associated with increased risk of developing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Given the importance of these first few years of life, it is interesting that most adults fail to recall autobiographical events from their early childhood years. Infantile amnesia is the term used to describe this phenomenon of accelerated forgetting during infancy, and it is not unique to humans. In fact, infantile amnesia has been observed in every altricial species examined, that is, all animals that experience extensive post-gestational development and care-giving. Many investigations into infantile amnesia have used Pavlovian fear conditioning in rats as a model of learning and memory. While adult rats exhibit excellent memory retention following just a single conditioning episode, infant rats rapidly forget fear associations over short intervals. Recently it has been shown that exposure to early life stress improves retention of learned fear in infant rats. The aim of this project is to investigate the neurobiological changes that underlie this early transition to adult-like memory.
Developmental Psychobiology Laboratory
We aim to understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying emotional memory across development. Memory and emotion both govern so much of how we feel, think, and act – and ultimately can decide the maladaptive motivations that drive mental disorders. Brain changes that are normally involved in our development from infancy through adolescence and into maturation contribute enormously to the onset, progression, and treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety and addiction. Our brain and memory also continue to change throughout ageing, hence, we are also examining ways to improve and maintain memory late in life. We will identify the mechanisms involved in pathological learning, memory, and behavior to design more effective treatment interventions. Our projects involve use of behavioural paradigms, transgenic models, and molecular/gene assays. By investigating the neural and the behavioural causes and consequences of youth susceptibility to mental health problems, and memory impairment in the aged, our lab aims to change understandings of mental health across the lifetime, and improve treatment outcomes for vulnerable populations.
All Projects by this LabAdolescent vulnerability to anxiety: a dopamine storyAdolescent vulnerability to addictionMemory, cognitive flexibility, and ageingEarly life stress and regulation of forgettingRegulation and inhibition of fear memory across development
The Division of Behavioural Neuroscience focuses on the use and development of models that reflect aspects of human disorders such as addiction, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, autism and neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s disease. The Cognitive Neuroscience group additionally studies cognitive disorders caused by diseases such as stroke (cerebrovascular disease), Alzheimer's disease and other dementias from a clinical perspective.