Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 3: Plasticity and Memory

Memory and Emotion

Donders-PLASTICITY-MEMORY-screen thema 3How we form and stabilize memories and why a particular memory is better preserved than another is the intriguing question we are examining in our group.

We investigate healthy subjects and patients with certain neuropsychiatric disorders using mainly fMRI to gain new insights into the memory system that enables us to remember past events and facts. Particularly, our research interests encompass memory formation, consolidation and retrieval as well as functional interactions between this memory system and other domains, like emotion, language and (cognitive) control.

Our research is fundamental in nature, but we aim to utilize our insight also in clinical care, where we perform clinical trials probing the role fMRI can play in stratifying individual patients with anxiety disorder for the best treatment option.

Name: Guillén Fernández
Telephone: 024-3620194 (PA Geeralien Derksen-Willemsen)
Visiting address: Trigon Building, room 01.124 Kapittelweg 29
6525 EN Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Postal address:

Radboud University Medical Center
Donders Institute - Trigon Building
P.O. Box 9101
6500 HB Nijmegen
The Netherlands

  • NEURAL BIOMARKERS OF ANXIETY - This project probes the neurophysiological underpinnings of anxiety by applying functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in combination with physiological measurements. We test whether a biomarker model can stratify a large anxious population based into three different types. In a subsequent clinical trial in collaboration with PRO PERSONA, the regional mental healthcare provider, we aim to predict treatment outcome of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) applying this biomarker model in patients with anxiety disorders.
  • DYNAMIC MEMORY, a project funded by a PhD fellowship from the Chinese Scholarship Council, aims to examine the dynamic nature of our memories using novel cognitive tasks and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in healthy human subjects. The project will reveal the cognitive, neural, and molecular mechanisms that underlie our ability to suppress unwanted or distracting memories actively and flexibly. Potential insights might be relevant for a better understanding of intrusive memories in patients with specific mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • One aim of the large-scale LANGUAGE IN INTERACTION project is to account for individual variabilities in language ability. In the word learning subproject of Big Question 4, the development of neural mechanisms underlying word learning during childhood will be investigated by combining functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with behavioral assessments. Language in Interaction is an NWO Gravitation programme and brings together researchers from eight universities and one research institute in the Netherlands.
  • A project funded by a postdoc fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation tackles the influence of ovarian hormones (e.g., estradiol and progesterone) on brain function and structure underlying emotional processing and memory. This project probes the ovarian hormone effects during different phases of the menstrual cycle and the impact of different types of oral contraceptives with an integrative and targeted approach that helps understanding the complex brain-hormone interactions relevant for mood- and anxiety disorders.
  • The project EMOTIONAL MEMORY INTEGRATION investigates the neural mechanism underlying the modulatory effect of emotion on memory integration, which aims to provide further insights into the pathophysiology of specific affective disorders like PTSD and phobias. This project involves multiple experimental approaches, including behavioral tasks, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as well as physiology. This project is funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC).
Key grants and prizes
  • 2017: Reinier Post Foundation Grant 'Healthy Brain Initiative' More info
  • 2012: Gravitation Research Consortium Grant (Guillén Fernández is a main co-applicant & WP leader) provided by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Title: “Language in Interaction”
  • 2012: Veni Award given by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to Martin Dresler: “Schemas and mnemonics: a cognitive neuroscience approach to memory skills”
  • 2010: ERC Advanced Investigator Grant (Richard Morris, University of Edinburgh & Guillén Fernández) provided by the European Research Council (ERC). Title: “The neurobiology of schemas: knowledge acquisition and consolidation”
  • 2010: Research Grant (PI) provided by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Title: “Memory formation under stress: The emerging importance of the brain mineralocorticoid receptor”
Key publications
  • Fernández G & Morris RGM. Memory, novelty and prior knowledge. Trends in Neuroscience 2018; 41: 654-659 Full text
  • Wagner IC, van Buuren M, Kroes MCW, Gutteling TP, van der Linden M, Morris RG, Fernandez G. Schematic memory components converge within angular gyrus during retrieval. eLIFE 2015; 10.7554/eLife.09668 Full text
  • Kroes MC, Tendolkar I, van Wingen GA, van Waarde JA, Strange BA, Fernández G. An electroconvulsive therapy procedure impairs reconsolidation of emotional episodic memories in humans. Nature Neuroscience 2014; 17: 204–206 Full text
  • Hermans EJ, Henckens MJAG, Joëls M*, Fernández G*. Dynamic adaptation of large-scale brain networks in response to acute stressors. Trends in Neurosciences 2014; 37: 304-314 Full text
  • Hermans EJ, van Marle HJ*, Ossewaarde L*, Henckens MJAG*, Qin S*, van Kesteren MT*, Schoots VC*, Cousijn H*, Rijpkema M, Oostenveld R, Fernández G. Stress-related noradrenergic activity prompts large-scale neural network reconfiguration. Science 2011; 334: 1151-1153 Full text

AUG 21

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Theme 3:
Plasticity and Memory

Research Group
Memory and Emotion

Principal Investigator
Prof G.S.E. Fernández, PhD

Group members

Associate PI
Nils Kohn, PhD 

Postdoctoral Researchers
James Cousins, PhD
Hongxia Duan, PhD 
Clara Ekerdt, PhD
Klara Sifalakis-Spalek, PhD

PhD Students
Anne-Kathrin Brehl
Yan-Nan Zhou
Linlin Yan

Research Assistants
Evie Brinkman
Joran Muller
Romy Verhoeven
Nina Wyman
Laura Dolman-Mauritz
Cengiz Karaman
Maud van Megen

Sara Aleskerova
Aditya Bali
Julia Koch
Bas Muller
Irene Willems
Kevser Kaymak
Shayan Shokri


For a larger photograph, click here

AUG 21