Space & Memory
GROUP LEADER - Prof. Neil Burgess FMedSci
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square
London, WC1N 3AZ
The Space and Memory group investigates the mechanisms of spatial cognition. Our research is directed at answering questions such as: how are locations represented stored and used in the brain? What processes and which parts of the brain are involved in remembering the spatial and temporal context of everyday events, and in finding one's way about?
To answer these questions we helped to pioneer the use of Virtual Reality in behavioural, neuropsychological and functional neuroimaging experiments. We also develop computational models of the mechanisms supporting navigation and spatial and episodic memory. These models are based on findings from neurophysiology, such as the representation of a rat's location within its environment found in the hippocampus. Our neuroimaging results show that the hippocampus is involved in human navigation. Where new accurate routes must be computed, good navigators activate the hippocampus more strongly than poor navigators, but the same individuals tend to activate the caudate nucleus when following very familiar routes. Perhaps because of this, activation of the caudate nucleus is also associated with rapid navigation. Remembering the spatial context of an event activates the left hippocampus. Tests in neuropsychological patients show the right hippocampus to be required for spatial navigation and the left in episodic memory. Within spatial memory, the hippocampus is specifically involved when viewpoint-independence is required.
- Coverage of recent research in The Guardian
- Neil Burgess Research
- TED talk: How your brain tells you where you are
- Lectures on memory and vision in The Well Brain Public Lecture Series of Durham University
- Lab Poster from the UCL Neuroscience Symposium 2014
- 'Material World' on Radio 4 discussing memory and the role of the hippocampus.
- Andrej Bicanski
My research is focused on the computational mechanisms underlying spatial navigation and spatial memory. I am particularly interested in how behavior and cognition can be related to mechanistic computational models, and how current ideas about spatial memory (e.g. the role of place cells and other spatially selective cell types) can be extended to episodic memory in general. Other topics of interest include motor pattern generation, biologically inspired robotics, and large-scale brain models.
- James Bisby
My research focuses on the way in which negative experiences can impact our memory for events. I am interested in how the generation of fear and/or anxiety might alter functioning of the hippocampus, and thus its ability to encode contextual aspects of an experience.
- Daniel Bush
Current Research and Interests
My research is concerned with the mechanisms and dynamics of spatial learning and memory in the hippocampal formation. Utilising electrophysiology, MEG and computational modelling techniques, our aim is to elucidate the cellular and network level mechanisms which generate the spatial tuning of principal cells in this region, and how these properties contribute to the more general mnemonic function ascribed to the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe.
- Andrea Castegnaro
I am interested in behavioural studies of spatial navigation in fully immersive virtual reality. We hope that the development of such studies may allow the early diagnosis of memory disorders as well as potential therapies.
- Talfan Evans
My work examines the interaction of border and grid cells in the mEC through a combination of computational modeling and rodent in vivo electrophysiology. This includes the development of neurobiologically plausible models of the integrated grid cell circuit that can account for the experimental observations described above, and make further predictions that can be validated through the analysis of electrophysiological studies in rodents.
- Jesse Geerts
My research focuses on the relationship between reinforcement learning and representations of space in the hippocampal formation. Recent results suggest that these representations of space, encoded in place cells and grid cells, are important for representing non-spatial states too, and that a particular subtype of place cell encodes an animal’s intended destination. I currently work on investigating the function of these “splitter cells” in reinforcement learning through computational modelling. In the future, I hope to test predictions coming from these models in experiments.
- Lone Hørlyck
My work examines how emotion affects memory for personal events, using a combination of behavioural methods and fMRI. In particular, I am interested in the effects of negative emotion on brain processing in relation to explicit memory encoding, consolidation and involuntary memory (intrusions).
- Siti Ikhsan
I am intrigued (and bemused) by how our memory of events in life fails us at times no matter how much we swear on it. This drives my interest and current work in episodic memory and the brain. Episodic memory is believed to be fundamentally composed of associations between multiple elements (people, time, context etc.) in an event, and I seek to investigate how different types of associations (and thus different episodic memories) are differentially consolidated and retrieved by the hippocampus and the neocortex. For this aim I use behavioural methods but plan to also use fMRI in the future.
- John King
Current Research and Interests
Neuropsychological and behavioural investigation of spatial memory and attention in virtual reality environments. Virtual correlates of real-world visuospatial co-ordination and navigation.
- Sebastian Siehl
My research focuses on spatial and episodic memory processing in healthy individuals and stress related disorder such as PTSD. I’m particularly interested in how anxiety and stress impact mental imagery and the contextualization of memories. In addition, I’m also interested in mental health in post-conflict regions and novel approaches to integrate findings from cognitive neuroscience into clinical practice.
- Anika Sierk
I am interested in the neuronal mechanism underlying intrusive as well as dissociative symptomatology in trauma-related disorders. My current research examines the role of spatial processes in the formation of involuntary memories (intrusions) of negative events.
- Benjamin Towse
Current Research and Interests
My current work examines the encoding of self-location representations by grid cells. I develop computer models to test the performance of different encoding schemes under different conditions, in an effort to further our understanding of what we have observed from experimental data about real neural coding. I am on the Wellcome Trust 4 Year Neuroscience PhD programme.
- Ewa Zotow