Neil Burgess: Research Interests

I am director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and a member of the UCL Institute of Neurology. I am supported as a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and also by an MRC programme grant.  

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.

Functional neuroimaging work is carried out in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and its members such as Eleanor Maguire and Ray Dolan. Neuropsychological work is carried out in collaboration with Faraneh Vargha-Khadem at the Institute for Child Health and Matthew Walker, Pam Thompson and Martin Rossor at the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery. Single unit recording in rats is carried out in collaboration with John O'Keefe in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Kate Jeffery in the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience. I also collaborate with Graham Hitch in Psychology at York on the mechanisms underlying human short-term memory for serial order. My group at the ICN is funded by Wellcome Trust, MRC and EU grants.

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 (like this one). 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 (reviewed here)  
  • identifying the the environmental inputs determining the receptive fields of hippocampal place cells (like this), examining how these responses change with experience (like this), and showing how the temporal and rate code of place cell firing is independent (like this).  
  • 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 (e.g. like this), functional neuroimaging (e.g. like this or this ) and Neuropsychological studies (e.g. like this), focussing on the hippocampus and related structures. Some of these studies are reviewed here .  
  • I am also interested in modelling working memory for serial order (e.g. like this) 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.

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