Space & Memory
+44 20 7679 1147
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 Cacucci, Caswell Barry and John O’Keefe involved in single unit studies of spatial learning, cognition and memory.
Post-doctoral Research Fellows
- 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.
- Daniel Bush
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.
- Alexandra Constantinescu
I am a neuroscientist interested in how the brain forms maps of the world. During my PhD at the University of Oxford, we found that humans use the grid cell code to form maps of conceptual, non-spatial memories. During my post-doc at UCL, we are exploring how humans navigate their spatial and non-spatial memories as they use the memory palace technique. Moreover, we are collaborating with the University of Oxford to develop a novel analysis to characterize the grid cell code in physical space, using 7T fMRI.
- Henry Dalgleish
I am a Research Fellow in the Burgess, Barry and Cacucci labs based in the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre at UCL. My research combines high-density electrophysiological/optical recording techniques with a 2D VR rodent navigation setup to understand how the hippocampus-entorhinal cortex system organizes knowledge into flexible, reconfigurable and efficiently searchable cognitive maps. I am particularly interested in how replay acts to build, stabilise and update such maps. Prior to this I completed my PhD with Michael Häusser at UCL. My work developed cellular resolution techniques for reading/writing neural activity in the mouse brain in vivo to probe how the functional properties of neural ensembles impact their behavioural salience. Outside of science I am a keen musician, playing bass guitar and piano as well as producing electronic music.
- Bardur Joensen
My research focuses on the mechanisms of remembering and forgetting, specifically for memories supported by the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe regions. In the past, I have used a combination of experimental psychology, statistical modelling and fMRI to investigate the forgetting and consolidation of hippocampal-based memories. Currently, I am using MEG to assess the temporal dynamics of memory formation and retrieval.
- Robin Hayman
I use a combination of high-density electrophysiology, two-photon microscopy, optogenetics and behaviour to elucidate the microcircuits that underpin spatial representation and learning in the hippocampal system of rodents.
- Thomas Jahans-Price
My current research involves conducting electrophysiological recordings from high density probes chronically implanted in freely moving mice. I’m interested in the neuronal computations underlying spatial exploration and navigation. Specifically: how neurons in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex build map-like representations of an environment; how these maps are consolidated; how they are retrieved to guide future behaviour and how they are updated to allow flexible behaviour.
Previously I have worked on interactions between hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in spatial decision makings tasks and on the impact changes in hippocampal circuitry have on downstream dopamine release
- Andrea Castegnaro
I create virtual reality paradigms based around medial temporal lobe region functionalities specifically designed for detecting pre-dementia Alzheimer's disease.
- Laura Convertino
I am exploring the mechanism of misremembering, and the interaction of semantic and episodic memory in this phenomenon. My project combines behavioural, neuroimaging (MEG and fMRI) and computational approaches. I am supervised by Neil Burgess and Daniel Bush, co-supervised by Karl Friston (UCL), and collaborate with Steve Fleming (UCL) and Michael Kirchhoff (UOW). I started my PhD after having qualified as Medical Doctor at the University of Pavia, Collegio Ghislieri, and I am now a student of the Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain (ECOLOGICAL BRAIN DTP).
- 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.
- Siti Ikhsan
I am working on pattern completion in episodic and non-episodic memory using behavioural and fMRI methods.
- Ingrid Martin
I am a PhD student funded by UCL Institute of Mental Health, supervised by Rick Adams and Neil Burgess. My research focuses on how neuroimaging and computational modelling can help us better understand the underlying mechanisms of delusions in Schizophrenia.
- Luke Emrich-Mills
My research involves developing novel virtual reality tasks to test spatial memory in healthy ageing and early Alzheimer’s disease. Current work makes use of a head-mounted display with integrated eye-tracking to detect subtle memory-driven changes in eye movements.
- Eleanor Spens
My research involves computational modelling of how the hippocampal-neocortical network semanticises memories over the course of systems consolidation, and specifically how this relates to replay. In other words, I am interested in how replay might help convert episodic memories into a form that better supports generalisation, inference, and prediction. I am a part-time student with a background in machine learning, and I am supervised by Neil Burgess.
- Changmin Yu
My background is in mathematics and statistics. I am generally interested in the theory and application concerning the different types of cells medial Entorhinal Cortex (such as grid cells) as well as the relation with hippocampal formation. I am currently exploring the possible relation between the velocity controlled oscillators and Fourier analysis and spectrum based on place cell inputs. I am also a member of the CDT in Foundational AI program.