The TIME project is a continuing programme of research into the clinical and theoretical aspects of Transient Epileptic Amnesia (TEA), Accelerated long-term forgetting (ALF) and Autobiographical memory.
Current work aims at discovering the causes of TEA, identifying precisely which brain regions and cognitive processes are disrupted by the condition, and determining the best forms of treatment.
The following is a brief description of research which is running at the moment:
In Edinburgh, Serge Hoefeijzers, working with Michaela Dewar and Sergio Della Sala, is investigating the timing of accelerated forgetting in detail, and asking whether it may result from the interfering effects of new learning on what has been learned recently. Serge also has an interest in the possible role of sleep - and quiet wakefulness - in memory and forgetting. Like Kathryn, Serge has been painstakingly producing tests which will make it possible to answer these questions precisely. As the participants in the TIME project are spread throughout the UK (from the Shetlands to Devon), Kathryn will initially approach more southerly, Serge more northerly folk. Serge and his project, however, are mobile, and he is willing (and quite looking forward) to travelling in a good cause.
Kathryn Atherton, supervised by Chris Butler and a psychologist, Kia Nobre, is investigating whether brain activity during sleep may be the key to the persistent memory difficulties which affect many patients with transient epileptic amnesia (TEA), even after their attacks have long ceased. There are several reasons for thinking that sleep may be important: attacks of TEA often occur on waking, sleep is now known to be an important time for memory formation, and the 'accelerated forgetting' we have demonstrated in many people with TEA is first detectable between 6 and 24 hours after memory is formed. Kathryn has been working hard to set up a method that will allow her to detect changes in memory strength overnight, and she will soon be inviting some of you to visit the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where we have access to the technology and expertise that will make it possible to assess sleep - and its effects on memory.