Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


Neil Burgess

Prof Neil Burgess

Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience

Space and Memory Group Leader


Neil Burgess' full research profile on UCL Profiles

Neil Burgess

Current Research and Interest

  1. Investigation of the role of the hippocampus in spatial navigation and episodic memory: computational modelling and electrophysiological analysis of the function of hippocampal neurons in the rat, functional imaging of human navigation, and neuropsychological experiments on spatial and episodic memory. 
  2. Investigation of human short-term memory for serial order: computational modelling, functional imaging and psychological experiment.

Reserarch Summary

I am based at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and affiliated to the UCL Institute of Neurology, Department of Epilepsy, the Wellcome Centre for Human NeuroImaging and the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour. I am supported by a Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship and ERC Advanced Grant NEUROMEM.  

I'm interested in the neural mechanisms supporting memory, with particular interest in the role of the hippocampus in spatial and episodic memory, but also an interest in the role of other brain regions and forms of memory such as phonological working memory. My approach is to develop models relating the actions of individual neurons to behaviour so as to integrate results from single unit recording, neuropsychological and functional neuroimaging and behavioural experiments. I hope to both predict and perform useful experiments and to generate novel theoretical and computational well-specified understanding of the mechanisms involved.

My research has followed 4 main directions:

  • Developing quantitative simulations of the computation role of hippocampal neurons in rat navigation (reviewed here), and of where and how grid cells (like this model) and place cells will fire in new environments. I am currently interested to extend these well-grounded models to capture the characteristics of human spatial and episodic memory, attempting to integrate the experimental results below.  
  • Identifying the environmental inputs determining the receptive fields of hippocampal place cells, examining how these responses change with experience, and showing how the temporal and rate code of place cell firing is independent.  
  • The third strand of my research concerns the neural basis of navigation and episodic memory in humans, using virtual reality environments based on modifications of PC video games. These have been used in behavioural, functional neuroimaging and Neuropsychological studies, focussing on the hippocampus and related structures.   
  • I am also interested in modelling working memory for serial order and its relationship to long term memory, including the relationship between imagery and memory and the role of parietal, medial temporal and frontal areas in these processes. of the hippocampus.  

For further information, please see publications.

Teaching Summary

I am course organiser (with Caswell Barry) of "Neural computation: models of brain function" for 3rd year BSc Neuroscience and intercalating medical students, and MSc students in Cognitive and Decision Science and in Brain and Mind Sciences). I also lecture on various other BSc and MSc courses in UCL, and supervise BSc and MSc research projects, in addition to PhD supervision within my own group.