This PUF partnership studied exactly how emotional ups and downs can affect the processing and storage of experiences as memory. The researchers asked themselves, “How does emotion affect the neural structures that mediate timing behavior?” Two universities, New York University (NYU) and Université Paris Sud came together to establish a research partnership that was bolstered by the participation of three additional universities: Lyon 1, Clermont-Ferrand II, and the City University of New York (CUNY). Two major research institutions, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Emotional Brain Institute, strengthened the team even more.
Led by CNRS researcher Valérie Doyère and Professor Regina Sullivan of NYU, researchers studied behavior and neurobiology across different species (humans, rats, mice, pigeons) and stages of development. They looked at questions such as whether or not children with autism exhibit the emotion-based temporal distortion that typical children do, and studied the role of the amygdala—the emotional center of the brain—in the storage of behavioral and physiological temporal parameters of fear memory from infancy to adulthood.
The main achievement of the project was the depth and variety of international exchanges it produced, which ranged from workgroups to talks and seminars at universities. A total of 17 faculty and post-docs and 16 students travelled between France and the U.S. in order to perform collaborative lab work, and two American researchers from NYU, Regina Sullivan and Don Wilson, presented seminars in Lyon, and CNRS researcher Valérie Doyère presented a talk at NYU. In the third year of collaboration alone, the partners produced 6 joint conferences and events.
Said Pierre Zelanti (Ph.D. student, Clermont-Ferrand), “Thanks to the Partner University Fund, I stayed in New York City for 5 months in 2012, and collaborated with Queens College faculty and students on a study regarding whether or not children with autism exhibit the emotion based temporal distortion that neurologically typical children do. It was a rich professional experience, in terms of it being an opportunity to conduct research with a population of children that I had not worked with in France and exchange ideas regarding neuropsychological assessment with new colleagues.”
In addition to fostering many opportunities for international exchange, Emotion & Time has added tremendously to a growing body of knowledge on memory processing. In the third year of the project, the partners published 12 joint articles, and there are currently many more in the works. A special issue of the Timing & Time Perception journal that will focus on Subjective Duration, with material drawn from the capstone Conference day and final meeting for the PUF grant project, will be published in November.