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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

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Space & Memory

The Space and Memory group investigates the mechanisms of spatial cognition. The group is led by Prof Neil Burgess.

Neil Burgess

Group Leader

 

n.burgess@ucl.ac.uk

+44 20 7679 1147

Neil Burgess

Space & Memory Research

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.

The Space and Memory group based at the ICN has close links with the groups of Francesca CacucciCaswell Barry and John O’Keefe involved in single unit studies of spatial learning, cognition and memory.

Group Members

 

Andrej Bicanski

Andrej Bicanski
a.bicanski@ucl.ac.uk

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

James Bisby
j.bisby@ucl.ac.uk

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

Dan Bush
d.bush@ucl.ac.uk

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 Castagnero

Andrea Castagnaro
andrea.castegnaro.15@ucl.ac.uk

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.

 

Alexandra Constantinescu

Alexandra Constantinescu
 

I am a neuroscientist interested in how the brain forms maps of the world. During my PhD, we found that humans use the grid cell code to form maps of abstract space. During my post-doc, we are developing a novel analysis to characterize this code in physical space, using 7T fMRI.

Talfan Evans

Talfan Evans
talfan.evans.13@ucl.ac.uk

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

Jesse Geerts
jesse.geerts.14@ucl.ac.uk

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

Lone Horlyck
lone.horlyck.11@ucl.ac.uk

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

Siti Ikhsan
siti.ikhsan.11@ucl.ac.uk

I am working on pattern completion in episodic and non-episodic memory using behavioural and fMRI methods.

John King

John King
john.king@ucl.ac.uk

Neuropsychological and behavioural investigation of spatial memory and attention in virtual reality environments. Virtual correlates of real-world visuospatial co-ordination and navigation.

Sofie Meyer

Sofie Meyer
 

I work on challenging the assumption that magnetoencephalography (MEG) cannot be used to detect hippocampal signals. My approach is to develop more sensitive acquisition and analysis methods. For the acquisition, I use subject-specific foam head-casts to stabilise and accurately re-position people's heads inside the scanner, as well as new optically pumped MEG sensors placed directly on the scalp to give much better signal-to-noise ratios. For the analysis, I extend forward models of the brain to include the hippocampus, and use cross-validation and Bayesian model comparison to quantify how much this hippocampal model helps us explain data, both empirical and simulated. I hope my work can contribute towards asking and answering new exciting questions in cognitive, clinical and computational contexts through reliable non-invasive imaging of hippocampal oscillations.

 

Thomas Meyer

Thomas Meyer
  

 ucjumey@ucl.ac.uk

Thomas Meyer is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow. His research focuses on the consequences of stress and trauma, emotional memories, and the aetiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His current project aims to test whether intrusive trauma memories result from an inability to translate egocentric perceptual impressions into viewpoint-independent (or allocentric) spatial representations – a key prediction of Dual Representation Theory (DRT). To this end, he employs aversive, experimentally controlled scenarios in real-time 3D Virtual Reality that make it possible to test the role of spatial memory in (analogue) traumatic intrusions, as well as the potentially moderating role of hormonal and sympathetic stress markers known to affect hippocampal learning. 

Sebastian Siehl

Sebastian Siehl
Sebastian.Siehl@zi-mannheim.de

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

Anika Sierk
a.sierk@ucl.ac.uk

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

Benjamin Towse
ben.towse.10@ucl.ac.uk

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

Blank Portrait
ewa.zotow.13@ucl.ac.uk