The overall aim of my PhD projects is to understand the contributions of specific neural circuits to different aspects of memory. I will focus on two different forms of learning; spatial memory and recognition memory. Spatial memory will be examined given its links to hippocampal and anterior thalamic (but not perirhinal cortex) function. Object recognition memory will be examined given its consistent links to perirhinal cortex (but typically not hippocampal or anterior thalamic) function. I will employ different behavioural assays for different elements within spatial learning and recognition memory. The principal aim of the project is, therefore, to examine the functional importance of anatomically specified connections linking different brain sites.
Selected publications (2014 onwards)
Full list of publications
Research topics and related papers
Any comprehensive analysis of the neural basis of memory must involve an understanding of the networks that support specific forms of learning. To take the example of spatial learning, while attention has often focused on the interactions of the hippocampus with other medial temporal lobe structures, it is clear that there are also key interconnections with structures in the medial diencephalon (e.g. anterior thalamus, mammillary bodies) and prefrontal cortex. Because these connections share common pathways, via the fornix, and arise from the same regions (e.g. subiculum) it is very difficult to tease apart the contributions of the various connections. For recognition memory, a persistent problem has come from trying to understand the significance of the complex interconnections of the perirhinal cortex within the medial temporal lobe (e.g., Aggleton, 2012; Staresina et al., 2012). As highlighted in the title of a review paper (Aggleton & Brown, 2006), the various interactions within the temporal lobe appear closely intermingled, often making it extremely difficult to isolate one system from the other. It is this problem that has, for example, bedevilled attempts to understand the functional relationships between the perirhinal cortex and hippocampus, despite their interconnectivity. In particular, it remains uncertain whether within the medial temporal lobe there are parallel routes for familiarity and recollective based memory or whether these two forms of information rely on the same neuronal interactions.
Wellcome Trust Studentship
2006 – 2010 National University of Ireland, Galway
1:1 BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science (Anatomy)
October 2011 – Present
PhD in Integrative Neuroscience
Awarded the title of National University of Ireland, Galway University Scholar in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
September 2010 – August 2011 Demonstrator in Anatomy, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
June – August 2010 Research assistant in Anatomy, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
June – August 2009 Summer research assistant and prosector in Anatomy, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland