Imogen Birch

Imogen Birch

Research student, School of Psychology

Email:
birchi@cardiff.ac.uk
Location:
1.056/02, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

My main research interests concerns fearful memories, specifically how the emotional content of a newly encoded memory is processed during sleep. It is known that sleep aids in memory consolidation, and that emotions tend to fade over time, however there is a new and exciting avenue to explore where sleep-based manipulations may be able to enhance certain processes concerning emotional memories. In particular, processes which are involved in the reduction of emotion. There are many clinical applications to a treatment which could enhance the reduction of fear through sleep, such as PTSD, which is characterised by recurrent highly emotional memories that do not fade in the normal way.  

My PhD was awarded as part of the GW4 Biomed MRC doctoral training partnership, which fosters inter-university collaboration between Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. My project connects Cardiff University with Bristol University, where I will combine the results from studying humans in Cardiff, to animal models in Bristol.

Research interests

Within the Sleep Lab here at CUBRIC, my research focusses on sleep engineering as a potential treatment for PTSD. This involves a technique called targeted memory reactivation, where sound cues presented at certain stages of sleep elicit reactivations of specific memories. I am investigating the effects this has on fear memories, using a simple model of behavioural learning, classical conditioning.

I use psychophysiological measures such as skin conductance and heart rate variability, as well as EEG and fMRI to study people's responses to fearful and neutral stimuli. I am also interested in the effects of individual differences in trait anxiety and the extent to which this may mediate the effects of cueing during sleep.  

Thesis

Sleep Engineering: A treatment for PTSD

Funding source

MRC Biomed DTP

Areas of expertise