UMCU, department of Translational Neuroscience
Internship project: Who is at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
The predictive value of memory contextualization for vulnerability to PTSD at an individual level in rats
Institutes: Translational Neuroscience, Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht & Center of Excellence, Military Mental Healthcare, Ministry of Defence
Contact: Milou Sep, MSc.; firstname.lastname@example.org
Background: PTSD can arise in the aftermath of an intense traumatic experience. The clear point of onset (i.e. trauma) makes PTSD particularly suitable for early intervention, immediately after trauma. However, there are substantial individual differences in reaction to traumatic experiences and PTSD susceptibility. This makes it highly relevant to study factors that allow us to distinguish subjects at an individual level, while providing insight in the underling mechanism that can serve as a target for post-trauma intervention. Such knowledge might particularly benefit those in high risk professions, like firefighters, military personal, police officers, or emergency medical and ambulance personal.
With a combination of clinical and pre-clinical approaches, we investigate if memory contextualization under stress is a stable pre-trauma trait that predicts vulnerability to PTSD at an individual level. Memory contextualization is the ability to store declarative memories into their original encoding context. Contexts are known to play a crucial role in the interpretation and recollection of (threatening) events and PTSD-patients re-experience trauma elements outside the original context. We focus on the interaction with stress because there is evidence that the late phase of the stress-response promotes memory contextualization. Insufficient cortisol levels after stressful events, as is thought to occur in PTSD-susceptible individuals, might cause problems in this late phase and predispose to later generalization of (fearful) memories.
Internship: You will work with a prospective animal model for PTSD. A series of behavioral experiments will be performed to determine if memory contextualization under stress is a stable pre-trauma trait that predicts vulnerability to PTSD at an individual level in rats. The behavioral tasks include acoustic startle reactivity, elevated plus maze, object/context mismatch task, mild version of the resident/intruder paradigm, and predator scent stress.
We are looking for master-students with background in biological / biomedical sciences or related disciplines and an interest in (preclinical) research. Experience with behavioral testing in rats is a pre. We expect that you will be able to work independently and accurately. You will be involved in data collection and analysis. For your report/thesis, you have the opportunity to formulate your own research question based on the collected data.
The internship is at the department of Translational Neuroscience UMCU, in Utrecht. The project is full-time, for 6 months, starting as soon as possible.
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