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PhD Studentship: Understanding the Interplay Between Sleep and Emotional Memory Bias in the Context of Depression

University of East Anglia - PSY

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £17,688 tax-free maintenance grant
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 8th December 2022
Closes: 22nd February 2023
Reference: HARRINGTONM_U23PSY

Emotional memories are more likely to be retained than neutral or mundane counterparts. This emotional benefit comes at the expense of peripheral background information. For example, when seeing an emotionally salient object on a neutral background, you are more likely to remember the object than if it was neutral, but less likely to remember specific details about its background. There are benefits to this emotional memory trade-off, but could it play a role in psychiatric disorders such as depression? It is well-established that depressed individuals exhibit general memory impairments and enhanced memory for emotionally negative material. However, is the emotional memory trade-off effect accentuated in depression? Depression is associated with poor sleep and changes in sleep macrostructure, such as increased duration and intensity of REM sleep. It is plausible that emotional memory biases in depression is driven by these sleep characteristics. Indeed, poor sleep biases attention towards negative material, which could set the scene for subsequent emotional biases in memory. Moreover, REM sleep has repeatedly been shown to prioritise the consolidation of negative emotional memories.

In this project, you will characterise the emotional memory trade-off effect in depression, and understand the role of sleep before and after learning in the development of emotional memory bias. This work will involve many techniques, including behavioural testing, polysomnography (PSG), and electroencephalography (EEG). The project will improve our understanding of depression aetiology, leading to development of novel treatment and prevention strategies.  

This PhD is in a competition for a Faculty of Social Sciences studentship. The studentship covers tuition fees for Home or International students, a tax-free maintenance grant (currently £17,688) and a research training support grant (currently £750 per year).

For further funding information, please visit:

Studentships and Stipends: www.uea.ac.uk/research/research-with-us/postgraduate-research/latest-phds-and-research-studentships/postgraduate-research-fees-and-funding/studentships-and-stipends

Maintenance grant levels: www.uea.ac.uk/research/research-with-us/postgraduate-research/latest-phds-and-research-studentships/postgraduate-research-fees-and-funding/stipends-and-fee-levels.

UEA Studentship terms and conditions: www.uea.ac.uk/documents/20142/130807/pgr-studentship-terms-and-conditions.pdf/b38bb426-cd1f-c4b5-38da-22023aca30e4?t=1590662730627.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Marcus Harrington

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