Professor John P Aggleton - FRS, FMedSci, BA MA Cantab, DPhil Oxon


Research group:
029 208 74563
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

My research examines how brain regions interact to support different forms of memory.  This systems level analysis of memory is ultimately concerned with understanding the human brain, and so includes clinical studies of people with memory problems, e.g. amnesia.  A major part of my work, however, involves animal models of amnesic conditions. An integral part of this endeavour is to compare and contrast different forms of memory, e.g. the recall of day-to-day events versus the recognition of events, along with the brain systems that appear to support these forms of memory.  A particular goal is to relate the amnesias associated with damage to different regions of the brain, and to test various models that explain their similarities and differences.

Teaching summary

I lecture on a Year 3 module that examines the neuropsychology of memory (Memory Processes and Memory Disorders, PS3208).

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Online publications

Full list of publications


Research topics and related papers

My research examines how different brain regions interact to support different forms of memory.  The focus of this research has largely been on two distinct regions within the brain, the medial temporal lobe and the medial diencephalon. These questions are being pursued at a variety of levels; anatomical, behavioural and clinical.  My anatomical studies examine the nature of the interactions between the temporal lobe and medial diencephalic structures, i.e. their origin, the routes taken within the brain, and the degree to which single pathways link multiple regions (see below).

Fig. 1. Picture of the rat subiculum within the hippocampal formation showing the separate, but adjacent, populations of nerve cells that project to the mammillary bodies (green) and anterior thalamus (red) (Wright et al., Journal of Comparative Neurology, in press).

My behavioural studies examine animal models of amnesic conditions.   For this reason I am very interested in refining learning tasks that tax the specific classes of cognitive problems found in amnesia.  An important component has been the development of new tests of recognition memory, so enabling the study of the neural basis of recognition memory.  I have proposed new models of how recognition memory and recall interact, and then tested these models with rodents and with clinical populations.  My rodent studies seek to understand how the perirhinal cortex contributes to recognition and other forms of memory using a combination of lesion and gene imaging techniques. This research is in close collaboration with researchers at Bristol University, and is funded by a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant. At the same time, I am trying to tease apart the functional contributions of a series of parallel temporal – medial diencephalic pathways that conjointly support memory (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2.  Schematic drawing of pathways running between the medial temporal lobe and the medial diencephalon that potentially support memory.

A further part of my research involves clinical studies of amnesia.  An example of the latter was a survey of patients across the UK who received surgery to remove a colloid cyst in the third ventricle.  We calculated the extent to which these patients suffer medial diencephalic damage and were directly able to relate these changes to their loss of episodic memory (Fig. 3).  The results provided unusually strong evidence concerning, 1) the anatomical basis of diencephalic amnesia, 2) the relationship between mechanisms for recall and for recognition in the brain.

Fig. 3. Left: MRI analyses of colloid cyst patients. Right: positive correlation between mammillary body volume and memory (recall). (From Tsivilis et al., Nature Neuroscience, 2008)


2009: Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, 2009-2014, £75,000

2009: International Investment Opportunities Fund New Zealand.  ‘Rescuing memory loss after brain injury’.   P.I. John C. Dalrymple-Alford. 3 years $380,000 NZ

2009: Wellcome Trust  ‘Interleaving brain systems for recognition and episodic memory’.  JPA Lead Applicant  - with  John Pearce, Malcolm Brown, Zafir Bashir, Clea Warburton, £1,569,168 for 5 years

2007: Wellcome Trust  PhD Programme in Integrative Neuroscience  2008-2013– Lead Applicant and Deputy Directory. £4,000,000 over 6 years.

2006: Wellcome Trust. Why are there parallel hippocampal – diencephalic pathways for event memory? Lead applicant.  £158,395  for 3 years.

2006: Wellcome Trust. Why are there parallel hippocampal – diencephalic pathways for event memory? Co-applicant with Erichsen, Vann, O’Mara.  €203,428,  for 3 years

Research group

Current researchers based in Cardiff University include:  Dr Mathieu Albasser, Dr Nick Wright, Ms Eman Amin, and Ms Julie Dumont.

Research collaborators

UK based     Professor Malcolm Brown, Bristol University Professory Zafir Bashir, Bristol University Dr Clea Warburton, Bristol University Dr Seralynne Vann, Cardiff University

International Dr Richard Saunders, NIMH, NIH Dr Mort Mishkin, NIMH, NIH Professor John Dalrymple-Alford, Christchurch, New Zealand Professor Shane O’Mara, Trinity College, Dublin

Postgraduate research interests

There are currently two different, but related, programmes of research.  

The first programme concerns temporal lobe structures and how they interact to support different forms of recognition memory. The principal area of interest concerns the behavioural analysis of recognition memory and other closely related forms of memory.  Structural interactions are examined with a mixture of lesion, gene-expression and anatomical studies.

The second programme concerns the functions of structures in the diencephalon (thalamus and hypothalamus), and how these structures support memory.  Here the focus is more on aspects of spatial memory.  As part of this research, the significance of the links between the temporal lobe and diencephalon are also of especial interest.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Ms Julie Dumont

Previous students

R. Kentridge "Dopamine and the Perception of Reward"  Ph.D  Durham University, 1988.  Currently - Reader, Department of Psychology, Durham University.      

C. Shaw "The Neural Basis of Associative Memory: An Examination of Cross-Species

Comparisons"  Ph.D  Durham University, 1992.  Currently - University Secretary and Director of Corporate Services and Human Resources (Cardiff University).

N. Neave  “Thalamo-cortical contributions to spatial working memory in the rat”  Ph.D Durham University, 1996.  Currently - Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Northumbria.

P. Hunt  “ An examination of the effects of thalamic lesions on learning and memory in rats”  Ph.D.  Open University, 1999.  Currently - Biological Standards Officer, Cardiff University.

S. Dix “Using dual-process theories to re-examine the neural substrates of recollective and familiarity processes in recognition”  Ph.D Cardiff University 2000.  Currently  - Senior Scientist, Neurodegeneration Drug Hunting Team, Eli Lilley.

S. D. Vann    “Neural systems underlying spatial memory”  Ph.D Cardiff University, 2000. Currently a  BBSRC (David Phillips) Research Fellow

D. Sanderson  “The hippocampus and structural learning”  Ph.D. Cardiff University, 2005.  Currently - Research Associate,  Dept. Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.

K. Shires  “Using IEGs to uncover pathways for spatial learning in the rat.”  Ph. D. Cardiff University, 2006 Currently - Research Associate, Neuroscience Department, Edinburgh University

G. Poirier  “Sensitivity of the retrosplenial cortex to distal damage in a network associated with spatial memory.”  Ph.D. Cardiff University. 2007  Post-doctoral research scientist, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Brain Mind Institute, Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics

M. Albasser   "The use of immediate-early gene expression to map the relationships between limbic structures supporting memory" Ph.D. Cardiff University, 2009.   Currently Research Associate School of Psychology, Cardiff University, 2010.

Undergraduate education

1965-72: Trinity School, Croydon 1973-6: B.A. University of Cambridge, Clare College; Natural Sciences

Postgraduate education

1980: D.Phil., Jesus College, University of Oxford, Thesis: Anatomical and Functional Subdivisions of the Amygdala. Supervisor: Dr. R.E. Passingham

Awards/external committees


2002: Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci)
2004-6: President of the European Brain and Behaviour Society
2006: Experimental Psychology Society – 4th Mid Career Award Prize 
2007-9: Council Member, Academy of Medical Sciences
2009-2014: Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award
2012: Fellow of the Royal Society

External Committees

Editorial Boards 1997-2000: European Journal of Neuroscience - Receiving Editor 1990-1993: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology - Section B Associate Editor  1995-present: Brain Research Bulletin - Editorial Advisory Board 1995-present: Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews - Editorial Advisory Board    1998-present: Behavioural Brain Research - Editorial Board   1998-present: Behavioral Neuroscience - Editorial Board 2000-present: European Journal of Neuroscience – Editorial Board 2001-present: Neuropsychologia –Board of Associate Editors

National Committees 1993-1995: MRC - NAHH (Neuroscience Approach to Human Health) Steering Committee  1996-2002: MRC - Neurosciences and Mental Health Studentships Allocation Panel 1997: MRC - Clinical Training and Career Development Panel   1997-2001: MRC - Neurosciences and Mental Health Board 1997-2002: MRC - Clinical Trials - Clinical Cross-Board subgroup 2003-2004: MRC – Cross Board 2008-present: MRC ad hoc committees

2004-2007: Wellcome Trust  - Cognitive and Higher Systems Funding Committee 2004-2007: Wellcome Trust  - Neuroscience and Mental Health (Joint) Committee 2007-present: Wellcome Trust  - Chair of Cognitive and Higher Systems Funding Committee 2007-present: Wellcome Trust  - Co Chair Neuroscience and Mental Health (Joint) Committee 2008-present: Wellcome Trust  - Strategy Committee for  Neuroscience and Mental Health 2009-present: British Neuroscience Association - Scientific Strategy Board

International Committees 2004-2006: President of the European Brain and Behaviour Society       2002-2004: Council member of the European Brain and Behaviour Society    2004-2006: Council member of FENS (Federation of European Neuroscience Societies)       2008: Programme committee member for FENS (Geneva)       2007: International Jury for Inaugural Evens Scientific Research Challenge


1994-present: Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology, University of Wales, Cardiff 1992-1994: Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Durham 1983–1992: Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Durham 1980-1983: NIH Visiting Fellow, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.  Laboratory of Neuropsychology (Head: Dr. M. Mishkin)