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We are very pleased to announce that Bernhard Staresina, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience (Wadham College) has now started in the Department. 

Bernhard’s research aims to understand ‘episodic memory,’ which is our remarkable ability to mentally travel back in time and re-live past experiences (www.staresinalab.com). Episodic memory provides us with a coherent sense of who we are and helps us tackle future challenges. But how do fleeting moments become lifelong memories? Why are some experiences better remembered than others? And why can’t we get rid of traumatic events that haunt us? Bernhard uses functional neuroimaging (fMRI), electrophysiology (M/EEG) and brain stimulation to elucidate the intricate mechanisms through which memories are formed, retained and forgotten.

In recent years, Bernhard has focused on the role of sleep for memory formation. Specifically, research has shown that the brain actively processes new experiences while we sleep – a phenomenon called memory consolidation. Bernhard’s group uses a dedicated sleep laboratory to measure brain activity during sleep and unveil how particular activity patterns strengthen our memories overnight. Additionally, Bernhard works with epilepsy patients who have electrodes implanted in their brains. This allows observing how the brain’s ‘memory hub’ (the hippocampus) consolidates memories during sleep. Ultimately, Bernhard will use insights gleaned from healthy participants to combat memory loss in patient populations.

Bernhard said,

Growing up in Vienna, Austria, I completed my PhD at New York University (NYU), followed by postdoctoral research stints in Cambridge, Bonn, Nijmegen and Stanford. It’s been a lifelong dream to come to Oxford and I’m excited to engage with Oxford’s amazing community of colleagues and students. In my free time I enjoy exercise and mixology (not always in equal amounts). Commutes to work have turned me into a podcast aficionado, which has been replaced by streaming services during lockdown. I love exploring Oxford and its surroundings, always on the lookout for Welsh Corgis, which I have a peculiar obsession with.

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