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‘Too many or too few memories can be problematic’

The Public Day of the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition (LIBC) has grown in recent years into one of the most popular popular-science events in Leiden. Tickets are selling fast for the upcoming edition on Friday 11 October in Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden. Professor Bernet Elzinga tells us more.

This year’s theme is ‘traces of memory.’ What does this mean?

Experiences are a theme running through your life, and your memories determine who you are at a certain point in time. Without these memories, you soon lose your identity. This is the case with people with Alzheimer’s, for instance. But too many memories can also cause harm. In people with posttraumatic stress disorder, for instance: they can have difficulty functioning because certain memories are so overwhelming that they can’t stop thinking about them.’

Why is this such a good theme for the LIBC conference?

Memory is a prime example of a relevant and interdisciplinary topic, and we’re really enthusiastic about it. Many aspects come together in this topic, all of which relate to the brain, identity and consciousness, central topics at the LIBC. Neuroscience, linguistics, cognitive psychology, psychopathology: they all play a role in the study of traces of memory.’

Why does the LIBC think it so important to organise a public day like this?

At the end of the day, the greater majority of the research at the University is funded by tax money. I think it is also our duty to show the important new insights and innovative interventions that this results in. What is more, it’s a topic that is very suited to a wider audience: memory is relevant to everyone, and everyone knows from experience that too many or too few memories can be problematic. We also use art to further explore the theme.

Which lecture should we definitely not miss?

As an organiser, I obviously can’t answer that question because I think they are all equally interesting, and of course I’m really enthusiastic about our own speakers from Leiden: Rianne de Kleine, Charlotte van Schie, Chris Hoeboer and Rogier Feis. Personally, I’m really looking forward to Eus van Someren from VU Amsterdam, who is coming to talk about the effect of sleep on the memory. The lecture by Merel Kindt from the University of Amsterdam also sounds really interesting. Her research is truly groundbreaking. She discovered that if you administer propranolol at the right moment, you reduce the emotional reactivity of memories. Then spiders don’t scare you as much, for instance, but it may also work in the treatment of PTSD.’

Come to the LIBC Public Day

Find out all about memory on the LIBC Public Day at Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden on 11 October. The Public Day is open to all (even if you know nothing about the topic). Tickets are priced from 10 euros. (NB This day is in Dutch.)

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