Research Projects
Cortical excitation and inhibition in targeted memory reactivation during sleep

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Targeted memory reactivation (TMR) has emerged in the past decade as a new promising technique for unravelling the mechanisms of sleep-dependent memory consolidation in neuroscience research and for manipulating memory in clinical settings. In a typical TMR, a previous learning-associated cue is presented again during a specific sleep stage to enhance the memory consolidation process. It is hypothesised that the cue presented during sleep artificially triggers the memory engram that induces neuronal replay, which is similar to spontaneous reactivation in the process of memory consolidation. Although TMR is considered as a promising drug-free, non-invasive, and inexpensive tool for treating mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, the mechanisms and neural correlates for TMR are still unclear. To investigate the neural correlates of TMR, we hypothesise that TMR enhances fear memory consolidation during slow-wave sleep leading to corresponding structural plasticity of dendritic spines as a memory trace in the frontal association cortex (FrA). We will use electroencephalogram (EEG) and electromyogram (EMG) recordings to detect specific sleep stages, while performing TMR and FrA imaging in vivo.

Professor CSW Lai, School of Biomedical Sciences

Professor Cora Lai obtained her bachelor and doctoral degrees at HKU. She later joined the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine in the Langone NYU Medical Center (New York, USA) for postdoctoral training. She has been working on intravital imaging of the mouse central nervous system in learning and memory, particularly in studying synaptic plasticity in fear associative learning and different psychiatric disease animal models with dendritic spine pathology.

HKU Scholars Hub

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.