Brain Sciences

Dr Leun Otten

Dr Leun Otten

Principal Research Fellow

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2004

Research summary

My research is in the area of human cognitive neuroscience, in particular long-term memory. I use an interdisciplinary approach to my research, combining experimental psychology with the strengths of different methods to study the brain. My primary expertise is in electrical brain activity, especially event-related potentials and oscillatory activity. I am also skilled in functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation. During my independent research career, I have focused on the question of how brain states affect the formation of new memories and retrieve old ones. I discovered that brain activity just before experiencing a new event influences how well that event is later encoded and retrieved. This implies that the way that someone anticipates or prepares for an upcoming event affects long-term memory functioning. I have sought to understand what types of memories benefit from such anticipatory activity, whether the activity is under voluntary control and what cognitive processes are associated with the activity. Most recently I have studied individual differences in how anticipatory processes are employed in long-term memory, in particular by older individuals.

Teaching summary

I have made a conscious effort to combine my strengths in research with those in teaching and assessment. I am dedicated to research-based education and a top-quality student experience. I enhanced the educational portfolio of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences by developing the Cognitive Neuroscience MSc and MRes programmes. These have run successfully for over ten years under my directorship, attracting high student ratings and applications from students of exceptional quality from across the world. I teach a Master's module on neuroimaging and an undergraduate module on cognitive neuroscience. I have a range of other educational and pastoral responsibilities. These include leading undergraduate seminars, serving as internal examiner for several modules, and being a personal tutor. These activities taught me about good education practices in relation to teaching, assessment and feedback and the associated UCL regulations and procedures. I served as Graduate Tutor of the Faculty of Brain Sciences between 2016 and 2020. I keep abreast of developments in the field by regularly attending educational workshops. Most recently, I have become skilled in online education and digital learning environments in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This follows from being a UCL e-learning champion since 2012.


University of Illinois Urbana/Campaign
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1997
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Doctorate, Docturandus | 1990


I did my undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I then moved to the USA to complete a PhD in Biological Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After a post-doctoral position at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, I joined UCL in 1999. I was awarded a Wellcome Research Career Development Fellowship in 2004 and moved onto a lectureship in 2008.