Vanessa van Ast
Our emotional memories seem indelible, and therefore a reliable record of our experiences. But nothing is further from the truth: over time both the content and emotional intensity of memories are subject to change. My research is driven by my fascination for the neuroendocrinological, physiological, and psycho-emotional mechanisms of memory formation and change, and how these explain clinically relevant phenomena like overgeneralized fearful memories or intrusive memories. To pursue questions in this realm, I am using a wide range of methods and techniques, such as behavioural experimentation (e.g., episodic memory assessment, fear-conditioning), psychophysiological assessments (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging, heart rate, fear-potentiated startle) and statistical techniques (e.g., mediation analysis).
After completion of the Research Master Psychology Amsterdam (cum laude), I received an NWO-funded Toptalent grant (“Effects of stress on associative memory”) that enabled me to pursue my PhD under the supervision of prof. dr. Merel Kindt. Then, as a post-doc in the group of prof. dr. Karin roelofs at the Donders institute, I helped to design and set up a large prospective study (still ongoing) investigating the neurobiology of human defensive reactions, and their role in the development of post-traumatic stress, in police recruits.
Currently I am working as assistant professor in the Amsterdam Emotional Memory Lab, at the Clinical Psychology department. I am happy to co-supervise the PhD projects of Sascha Duken, Olivier de Vries, and Lotte Stemerding, together with prof. dr. Merel Kindt. My ongoing research is gratefully supported by an NWO-veni grant, “The fate of emotional episodic memories”.