Neural mechanisms of spatial and episodic memory
Prof Neil Burgess
University College London
Our memories define us and their loss in diseases like Alzheimer's can be devastating. Research into the neural mechanisms of memory is hindered by a gap between knowledge of the biology of individual neurons and the experience of memory.
My project aims to close this gap by understanding how large circuits of neurons in the brain enable memory. I have developed a computational model of how this happens when remembering the spatial context of an event. This model will be refined and extended by observing multiple levels of data, from single neurons and small circuits to brain systems and behaviour in humans and mice when performing tasks. In mice, the activity of large numbers of neurons will be observed and switched on or off. In humans, large-scale metabolic and electromagnetic activity will be measured, electrical activity recorded during treatment for epilepsy, and predictions of the model for patients with memory disorders will be tested.
Key goals include a neural-level understanding of how information is either stored as new memories or recognised as part of familiar ones, how entire events are (re)constructed from partial cues, and how mental imagery is generated for what happened or what might happen in the future.