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The breakthrough discovery in animal research that fear memories may change upon retrieval has sparked a wave of interest into research on the malleability of emotional memory, also known as memory reconsolidation. Inspired by these insights, we have developed a novel approach to pharmacologically neutralize the affective component from fear memories in humans. Although these findings suggest a paradigm shift in clinical practice, there remain many fundamental questions to be resolved.
For this project, we seek highly motivated and talented PhD candidates. A great hurdle to overcome in memory reconsolidation research is that the window to target fear memory with amnesic agents is small: it is preceded and followed by phases that leave the original memory unaffected. One of the PhD candidates will develop and validate a marker that indicates memory reconsolidation during memory reactivation in a human fear-conditioning test. This first PhD-project_1 aims to solve the problem of potential boundary conditions of the reconsolidation intervention. The other PhD candidate will critically test in individuals with (sub)clinical fears whether the reconsolidation intervention initially targets the affective properties of fear memory, while leaving the cognitive expression of fear memory intact. Given that the cognitive expression is at the same time crucial to demarcate the boundary conditions of memory reconsolidation, this second PhD-project_2 aims to understand the paradoxical dissociation, yet interdependence, between the cognitive and emotional expression of fear memory. Your task is to collect and analyze data to write a doctoral thesis on the basis of experimental papers.
You will conduct your research under the supervision of Prof. Merel Kindt (promotor) at the University of Amsterdam, funded by the ERC Advanced Grant for the project ‘Understanding the Stability and Plasticity of Emotional Memory’. The project is also part of the emotional memory lab (Dr V. van Ast, Dr R. Visser), which focusses on the neurobiological and psychological mechanisms of emotional memory, and how these processes explain clinically relevant phenomena like emotional memory disorders.
The position starts in the summer of 2018 but a later date may be considered, and is initially for one year. Extension of the contract after the first year to a total of four years depends on satisfactory performance. For PhD candidates, the gross monthly salary will be in accordance with the salary scales for PhD candidates at Dutch universities, i.e. ranging from €2,222 in the first year to €2,840 in the final year. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable.
With over 5,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.
The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.
The Department of Psychology is part of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG), the largest educational and research institution in the social sciences in the Netherlands. The Faculty serves 7500 students in numerous Bachelor and Master programs in Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Communication Science, Social Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, and Educational Sciences. Psychology is situated centrally in Amsterdam, and hosts program groups focusing on social, organizational, developmental, clinical, statistical, and cognitive psychology. It offers excellent facilities for undertaking research in a broad range of areas, including a range of psychophysiological, behavioral, EEG and TMS laboratories, as well as a 3T and 7T MRI scanner.