17 Queen Sq.
Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience
Clinical & Experimental Epilepsy
Institute of Neurology
My group and collaborators seek to reach a neural circuit-level understanding of human spatial and episodic memory, focusing on the role of the hippocampus. We design and perform single-unit recording, EEG, fMRI, MEG, neuropsychological and behavioural experiments in humans and rodents, and use computational modeling to integrate the results. The group encourages interaction between modeling and experiment by being directly involved in both. We discovered how environmental cues determine the firing of hippocampal “place cells” which represent a rat’s current location via the firing of putative “boundary vector cells” (BVC) (which have now been found), enabling prediction of place cell firing in new environments. We also demonstrated the presence of attractor dynamics, long-term experience-dependent plasticity and temporal coding within hippocampal neuronal representations. In humans we have pioneered the use of virtual reality (VR) to investigate the neural mechanisms of spatial memory, identifying the specific contributions of hippocampal and striatal systems to spatial navigation, and the learning rules employed by each. Computational models include the firing of entorhinal cortical grid cells as the interference of theta-frequency membrane potential oscillations, and human memory for spatial context as the interaction between neural firing patterns in medial temporal and parietal areas. These models can explain the patterns of fMRI activation in remembering or imagining spatial scenes, and can predict the search patterns of humans within VR environments.
Neil Burgess is Professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience. His laboratory investigates the neural mechanisms of memory using a combination of methods. These methods include computational modeling, human neuropsychology and functional neuroimaging and single unit recordings in freely moving rodents. His main goal is to understand how the actions of networks of neurons in our brains allow us to remember events and the spatial locations where they occurred. After studying maths and physics at UCL he did a PhD in theoretical physics in Manchester and a research fellowship in Rome, before returning to UCL funded by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, Medical Research Council Senior Fellowship and program grant, and the Wellcome Trust. He served as Deputy Director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (2006-2012) and Director from Sept 2014. His research is currently funded by a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellowship, an MRC programme grant and the EU.