A new collaborative project with the Ruhr-University Bochum will investigate how stress hormones alter the course and quality of formation of long-term memories. The project is funded with 1 million euros from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).Stressful and emotionally arousing experiences activate hormonal and brain systems that create strong memories. It remains unclear, however, how this strengthening affects the quality of such memories.
General versus detail memoryHuman behavioral studies show contradictory results: Some studies indicate that emotional memories are remembered in a generalized manner, resulting in strong memory of the central theme of an experience. However, other studies report increased accuracy of detail memory. No integrative theory exists that explains these apparently conflicting findings.
In an interdisciplinary and translational effort, this project will conduct human behavioral, pharmacological and neuroimaging studies. These will be combined with mechanistic studies in rodents to develop a novel comprehensive model of how stress hormones influence brain network mechanisms underlying the quality of long-term memories. We expect that the validation of this new model may have broad legal, educational and clinical implications.