Out with the old, in with the new: Novelty judgements as a translational tool to assess healthy ageing

Funding Notes:  The student will require a minimum of an upper second class Hons Degree and is open to UK and European Community students. Fees and stipend are covered for UK students. EU students can get fees-only covered if they have not studied in UK and can get full stipend and fees if they have studied here for 3 or more years.

Application Deadline: 31st January, 2012

Supervisors: Drs James Ainge and Akira O’Connor, University of St Andrews, with Dr Rosamund Langston, University of Dundee

Project Description: How we experience memory shapes how we experience the world. Just as learning to trust our memories in childhood empowers us to explore our surroundings, learning that our memories have become untrustworthy leads to reduced independence and diminished quality of life. The deleterious effects of memory decline are most often associated with ageing in older adulthood. Although memory decline is commonly conceptualised as a reduced ability to detect ‘oldness’, we will build on recent advances across multiple fields to explore age-related memory decline as a deficit in ‘novelty’ detection (refs. 1-3). The proposed project will combine state of the art in vivo behavioural neuroscience techniques with neuropsychology and functional neuroimaging to explore the ability to detect novel stimuli across the lifespan of both rodents and humans. This multidisciplinary approach will examine how the behavioural consequences of ageing (e.g. reduced environmental interaction) are driven by age-related changes to the structure and function of memory systems across species. This combined approach will provide excellent training for the student in a variety of techniques, particularly strategically important in vivo skills, to enable a systems level understanding of memory mechanisms and how they degrade with normal ageing.

References:
Burke SN, Wallace JL, Nematollah S, Uprety AR & Barnes CA (2010). Pattern separation deficits may contribute to age- associated recognition impairments. Behavioral Neuroscience, 124, 559-73.
O’Connor AR, Lever C & Moulin CJA (2010). Novel insights into false recollection: A model of déjà vécu. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 15, 118-144.
O’Connor AR, Guhl EN, Cox JC, Dobbins IG (2011). Some memories are odder than others: Judgements of episodic oddity violate known decision rules. Journal of Memory and Language, 64, 299-315.

Enquiries by e-mail to James AingeAkira O’Connor or Rosamund Langston.

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