We often remember things that we would rather forget. While for most people unwanted and intrusive thoughts are a passing irritation, they can be highly distressing and debilitating for individuals suffering from psychiatric disorders. The overarching aim of this research is to understand how people control intrusive thoughts and the role of sleep in this process.
Intrusive thought control is orchestrated by the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which downregulates memory retrieval operations in the hippocampus. In this project, we combine fMRI, EEG and neurophysiology to investigate how sleep disturbances impact on people’s ability to engage top-down inhibitory control mechanisms and suppress unwanted memories of the past.
Dr Cairney's research combines experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and neurophysiology to investigate how emotional memories are processed in the sleeping brain.