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Jonathan LEE

Photo Jonathan LEE

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Senior Lecturer in School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham and Researcher

Jonathan Lee is a basic research behavioural neuroscientist interested in the mechanisms underlying the persistence of long-term memories. PhD in Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, where he has been a Lecturer, he moved to the University of Birmingham in 2008, where he is now Senior Lecturer in School of Psychology, and promising researcher of the Memory and Learning Group. He has published in Peer Reviewed Journals 38 papers. His current research focusses on the potential targeting of the memory destabilisation-reconsolidation process to reduce the impact of traumatic and addictive drug memories on anxious and drug-seeking behaviours. The retrieval of an existing memory can cause that memory to be destabilised, necessitating its reconsolidation. It may be possible to exploit this process to cause traumatic memories to be destabilised and their reconsolidation impaired to diminish their clinical impact; his research team has extensive supporting preclinical evidence in basic rodent models of aversive memories.



Memory Consolidation and EMDR

One core underlying feature of PTSD, and indeed some other disorders, is an abnormally strong and persistent emotionally-salient memory that influences everyday behaviour. Therefore, treatment strategies that diminish, erase or re-value these memories are likely to have clinically-beneficial outcomes. My research focusses on the basic mechanisms of memories, including fear and traumatic memories, in rodent experimental models. Using such models, we can progress our understanding of the formation, stabilisation and persistence of memory. This understanding forms the basis of translation to human experimental and clinical studies.

In recent years there has been a growing focus on the phenomenon of memory destabilisation-reconsolidation. Memories appear to destabilise sometimes upon their retrieval, necessitating a process of reconsolidation. Interference with, or manipulation of, that reconsolidation process can reduce subsequent memory expression. The capacity of targeting memory reconsolidation to reduce fear and anxiety has been demonstrated in rodent models, human experimental fear studies, human experimental trauma paradigms and in PTSD patients. Some have even speculated that interference with memory reconsolidation is one mechanism by which EMDR causes its clinical benefits. However, further studies in rodents suggest that there are important issues that must be considered when attempting to apply reconsolidation-based therapy to human patients. These considerations might be relevant to EMDR practice more widely.


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