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.
- James Bisby
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
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.
- John King
Neuropsychological and behavioural investigation of spatial memory and attention in virtual reality environments. Virtual correlates of real-world visuospatial co-ordination and navigation.
- Thomas Meyer
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.
- Andrea Castegnaro
I create virtual reality paradigms based around medial temporal lobe region functionalities specifically designed for detecting pre-dementia Alzheimer's disease.
- 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.
- Lone Hørlyck
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
I am working on pattern completion in episodic and non-episodic memory using behavioural and fMRI methods.
- Benjamin Towse
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.
- 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.