Professor Kim Graham - BSc (Hons Edin), PhD (Cantab)


Research group:
029 208 70468
CUBRIC, Maindy Road

Research summary

My research involves investigation of the brain circuits underpinning successful human memory, with the aim of understanding how these neural networks are affected in aging, dementia, encephalitis and epilepsy.  This new knowledge is then used to investigate the potential plasticity of brain networks, with the longer-term aim of developing lifestyle and cognitive interventions able to delay memory impairment in individuals at increased risk of poorer later life cognitive aging.

Working with Professors Andrew Lawrence, Derek Jonesand Krish Singh, and facilitated by state-of-the-art scanning facilities at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), I use multi-modal brain imaging approaches, including diffusion MRI (dMRI), functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG).  Combining these imaging techniques allows us to ask how inter-individual variation in the structure and function of extended brain networks is differentially associated with successful behaviour, which in turn supports our translational research, currently focused on understanding the importance of early life brain-body alterations associated with genes implicated in poorer later life cognitive aging.

Teaching summary

I teach Year 1 students on PS2020 (Language and Memory), Year 3 students on PS3208 (Memory Processes and Memory Disorders) and MSc Neuroimaging students on PST505 (Memory: Functions and Failures). These lectures introduce students to disorders of memory, in particular semantic dementia, semantic aphasia and encephalitis.  Taking a multidisciplinary approach, they aim to showcase how cognitive psychology and neuropsychology has been used to inform our understanding of human memory. The more advanced lectures also introduce other informative cognitive neuroscience techniques, such as functional neuroimaging (fMRI), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and magnetoencephalography (MEG).

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Full list of publications


Memory is a topic that the public is extremely interested in, and where possible I engage with the media, including undertaking radio, TV and newspaper interviews, and discussing the implications of our, and others, research findings.  I was also responsible for establishing the Cardiff Psychology YouTube Channel, which documents short videos about events in the School (e.g., PhD and visitor debates), our teaching, research and facilities, as well as our public engagement activities.

2000: BBC World Radio: Interviewed for Discovery Series, “Memory Disorders”

2001: BBC Radio 4: Interviewed for scientific series on, “Human Memory”

2001: Noticias (South American version of ‘Time’): Article on “Human Memory”

2003: BBC Radio 4: Interviewee (interviewer - Melvyn Bragg) on “In Our Times – Science of Memory”

2005: BBC World Radio: Interviewed for programmes on “Exploring Memory”

2006: Research reported in Reuters, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Cambridge Evening News

2006: BBC Radio 4: Interviewee (interviewer – Mariella Frostrup) on “Sharpen Your Memory”, part of summer season of Memory Experience programmes.

2013: Poster presentation (PhD Student, Jon Shine) at ‘Set for Britain’, House of Commons.

2014: Invited guest for International Longevity Centre – UK high-level dinner discussion, House of Lords

2014: Games presenter, Cardiff Brain Games, Cardiff Museum.

2014: Invited panel discussant, Cardiff SciScreen, ‘Iris’.

Research topics and related papers

My research focuses on advancing our understanding of the neural substrates underpinning human long-term memory.  In particular, we are interested in the distinct functional roles played by distributed neural circuits in different forms of human memory, and how disruption to these networks may influence memory deficits seen in cognitive aging, but also encephalitis and epilepsy.   

Over the last five years my research group has focused on studying the distinct contributions of the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex to spatial and object processing, respectively. By designing innovative new cognitive paradigms, in particular involving visual discrimination, perceptual learning, and recognition memory, we have shown dissociable impairments after damage to these distinct medial temporal lobe structures (Mundy et al., 2013; Watson et al., 2012).  By manipulating the overlap between spatial and/object features presented across stimuli (Barense et al., 2007; Mundy et al., 2012), we have been able to identify the circumstances under which the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex may be critically necessary to drive successful memory.  Findings from these studies have demonstrated a striking profile of both preservation and impairment after medial temporal lobe lesions, inconsistent with traditional views of human memory, and implied that the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex may be key nodes involved in the processing of complex conjunctive spatial layouts and objects/faces, respectively (Graham et al., 2010).

More recently, and in collaboration with Professors Andrew Lawrence and Derek Jones, we have started to investigate the functional significance of the extended structural networks associated with medial temporal lobe regions.  Application of diffusion MRI in healthy individuals, in conjunction with cognitive tasks, has highlighted the importance of key white matter tracts linked to the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex (e.g., the fornix and inferior longitudinal fascisculus, respectively) in supporting perception and memory for spatial and object/face representations (Postans et al., 2014).  Our future research plans are now focused on understanding the nature, and functional significance, of inter-individual variation in the key large-scale cortical networks connected to these distinct medial temporal lobe regions.

Working with Murray and Wise, this research has facilitated the development of a detailed neurobiological model in which memory is dependent upon distinct representational systems distributed throughout the brain.  These systems emerged to optimize behavior during evolution, and, eventually, supported complex memory for past episodic experiences (Graham et al., 2010; Murray and Wise, 2010). In collaboration with Professor Andrew Lawrence, we are testing predictions from this model around spatial and object perception and memory, but also how representations of self-other contribute to the broader phenomenology of episodic memory.

Based on my previous research in older individuals and patients with dementia, where we developed new cognitive tasks to aid dementia diagnosis (Dudas et al., 2005; Irish et al., 2012) and inform cognitive rehabilitation (Dewar et al., 2009), Lawrence and I have also started to apply representational models as a new framework for the study of early life brain alterations associated with increased genetic risk for dementia.  Using the presence of an APOE-e4 allele as a marker of increased risk for poorer cognitive aging later in life, we have been asking whether young individuals show key functional and anatomical brain changes that parallel later life deficits we have previously reported in individuals with Alzheimer's disease (Lee et al., 2006; 2007).  A further step-change in our research approach has been collaborative work with social psychologists (Haddock, Maio), social scientists (Hedgecoe, Latimer), geneticists (Clarke, Williams) and physicists (Evans, Wise).  An ESRC Multidisciplinary PhD Award facilitates this work by funding five PhD students working on the integration of biological and social science approaches to early diagnosis of dementia.


2016: MRC Clinical Infrastructure Call. UKDP: Integrated DEmentiA research environment (IDEA).  Lead PI: Gallacher; Co-PI (from 52 individuals). £40.8M

2016: MRC Clinical Infrastructure Call. CUBRIC: Advancing the frontiers of neuroimaging in Experimental Medicine.  Lead PI: Wise; Co-PI Jones, Singh, Linden, Graham, Kauppinen. £6.7M

2016-2021: Multi-scale and multi-modal assessment of coupling in the healthy and diseased brain.  Lead PI: Jones, Co-PIs: Assaf, Chambers, Graham, Jezzard, Linden, Morris, Nutt, Sumner, Singh, Wise.  £5.9M

2014: NISCHR Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research.  Lead PIs, Phillips, Williams, Woods; Co-PI (from 21 individuals). £1.8M

2014: Wolfson Foundation.  CUBRIC II: The Cardiff Brain Research Imaging Centre.  Lead PI: Jones, Co-PIs: Wise, Singh, Linden, Graham and Chambers.  £1M

2013-2018: ESRC Multidisciplinary PhD Pilot Scheme – Wales Integrative PhD programme in Neurodegeneration (WIN):  Unifying Social and Biological Approaches to Early Detection of Dementia.  Lead PIs: Graham, Lawrence; Co-PI: Hedgecoe, Haddock, Maio, Wise, Woods, Morris, Williams, Latimer.  £550K.

2013-2014: Wellcome Trust ISSF Project Grant  PI: Graham; Co-PIs: Wise, Lawrence, Williams, O’Donnell, Jones.  Elucidating functional brain imaging biomarkers for risk genes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.  £68K.

2012-2016: Medical Research Council (MRC) – Are there material-specific effects in long-term memory: evidence from amnesia and functional neuroimaging? Lead PI: Graham; Co-PIs: Butler, Rafal, Wilding, Davies.  £925K.

2012-2015: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – Differentiating the contributions of domain-specific regions within the medial temporal lobe and extrastriate cortex to perception.  Lead PI: Graham, Co-PIs: Downing, Mundy.  £1M.

Research Group

Katja Umla-Runge (Wellcome Trust funded)
Carl Hodgetts (MRC funded)
Mark Postans (BBSRC funded)

Research Collaborators

Cardiff University
John Gallacher
Derek Jones
Andrew Lawrence
Krish Singh
Ed Wilding
Julie Williams
Richard Wise

Oxford University
Chris Butler
Nicola Filippini
Heidi Johansen-Berg
Clare Mackay
Natalie Voets

Cambridge University
Tim Bussey
Rik Henson
Lisa Saksida

Toronto University
Morgan Barense
Andy Lee

National Institute for Mental Health
Elisabeth Murray

Carnegie Mellon University
Marlene Behrmann

Postgraduate research interests

I have successfully supervised over 13 PhD and clinical fellows during my research career to date. Students wishing to work in the group should have strong interests in human memory, particularly in the context of representational accounts in which extended neural circuits support distinct aspects of human memory (e.g., Graham et al., 2010).  Skills in neuroimaging would also be highly advantageous, as much of our research involves application of multi-modal imaging approaches to test predictions about the functionality of these neural circuits.  Our translational research involves research with individuals at increased genetic risk of poorer later life cognitive health, but also involves collaborations with researchers working on aging, as well as clinicians working on dementia, epilepsy and encephalitis. 

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

Rebecca Cavill (ESRC funded, Cardiff University)
Alison Costigan (Cardiff University)
Matthew Jones (ESRC funded, Cardiff University)
Mark Postans (BBSRC funded, Cardiff University)
Martina Stefani (Cardiff University)
Hannah Chandler (ESRC funded, Bangor University, jointly with Paul Downing)

Previous students

2013: Jonathan Shine (Cardiff University, now a postdoctoral fellow at DZNE, Magdeburg, Germany). 

2010: Hilary Watson (Cardiff University, now an accountant at Ernest and Young, UK).

2008: Karen Taylor (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge)

2005: Morgan Barense (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, now a Canada Research Chair, University of Toronto, Canada)

2005: Andrew Graham (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, now a consultant neurologist, Cambridge, UK)

2005: Fiona Clague (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK, now a clinical psychologist, UK)

2004: Toby Cumming (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, now a research fellow, Melbourne, Australia)

2003: Rhys Davies (University of Cambridge, UK, now a consultant neurologist, Liverpool, UK)

2003: Sian Thompson (University of Cambridge, UK, now a consultant neurologist at Cambridge University, UK)

2003: Anna Kropelnicki (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK, now an orthopaedic surgeon, London, UK)

1998: Jon Simons (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK, now a Reader, Cambridge University, UK)

Undergraduate education

My undergraduate degree (BSc Biological Sciences, Psychology, First Class Honours) was from Edinburgh University (1990), during which I was awarded the Class Medal for Psychology (1998) and the Drever Prize in Psychology (1990). I subsequently worked as a research assistant with Professor Ian Deary, during which we published papers on cognition in diabetes (Deary et al., 1992), and aptitude testing in surgeons (Deary et al., 1992).

Postgraduate education

I undertook postgraduate education at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and St John's College, Cambridge University (PhD completed 1995). During this time, I worked with Professors John Hodges and Karalyn Patterson investigating language and memory in semantic dementia (Graham et al., 1994; Graham et al., 1995; Graham and Hodges, 1997).


1988: Class Medal in Psychology (Edinburgh University)  
1990: Drever Prize in Psychology (Edinburgh University)  
2003: Freda Newcombe Lecture (British Neuropsychology Society)
2005: Paul Bertelson Award (European Society for Cognitive Psychology)
2012: John Marshall Memorial Debate (British Neuropsychological Society)

External Committees

MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board
Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship Panel
Neurodem Cymru Steering Committee
REF 2014 Output Assessor UoA4 ‘Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience’


The first 12 years of my academic career were spent at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit where I became a Programme Leader in 2002, responsible for a programme of research on memory loss in dementia and amnesia.  In 2007, I moved to the School of Psychology where I was appointed as Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology, Cardiff University.  I have held a number of senior management roles in the School of Psychology (e.g., Director of Finance; Director of Research), as well undertaken research strategy work on behalf of the Cardiff University College of Biomedical and Life Sciences