Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN)
The Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience was first established in Edinburgh in 1987 for the groups of the late Brendan McGonigle and of Richard Morris, and the lab was opened by Mort Mishkin (by invitation) and John Aggleton (who happened to be around that day).  We were later joined by Emma Wood.  When we moved to our new (and wonderful) laboratories in 1 George Square in 2008, we approached Mort and John to open us again – and they came and did a wonderful job.

 
 
 
 


LCN now consists of three groups – those of Oliver Hardt, Richard Morris, and the shared lab of Emma Wood and Paul Dudchenko.  Brief descriptions of the global aims of these groups are given below.  Each of us have further details and publications on our personal web pages on this CCNS site, together with information about each of our postdocs and graduate students.

Hardt Lab
Forgetting and memory maintenance
It is unknown how and why the brain forgets. Our research on mechanisms that maintain long-term memories suggests that biologically active, well-regulated forgetting mechanisms exist that bear functional significance on memory. We assume that trafficking of synaptic GluA2-containing AMPA receptors (GluA2/AMPARs) plays a central role in constitutive forgetting.

Forgetting pathways (CIHR grant). We aim to characterize the molecular and cellular pathways that are involved in constitutive forgetting. To this end, we employ various techniques (such as slice electrophysiology and behavioural models), and target specific steps in pathways involved in GluA2/AMPAR trafficking using acute or viral delivery of peptides.
Project colleagues: Migues, Moraes.

Functional characterization of forgetting (CIHR grant). We study the role of forgetting in normal memory functioning (such as cellular and systems consolidation) and its contribution to certain memory phenomena (such as behavioural generalization or spontaneous recovery of extinguished responses).
Project colleagues: Migues, Moraes.

Translational research
If forgetting is a constitutive memory process, then pathologies of forgetting might exist. We explore this hypothesis by exploring whether the deregulation of constitutive forgetting processes might be involved in accelerated forgetting observed in ageing, senescence, and forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease (ARUK grant).
Project colleagues: Spires-Jones, Oren.

Morris Lab
Cellular and Systems Consolidation
It is believed that memory traces for spatial, episodic-like and semantic-like memories are created in both the hippocampal formation and neocortex, and that interactions after learning between these brain areas consolidate these traces to render them persistent.  They may still be updated by new experiences, but past experience and knowledge will influence this process.

Our present work on cellular consolidation (ERC Grant) involves optogenetic modulation of neuromodulatory transmitters afferent to the hippocampal formation in TH:cre mice. The aim is to test critical predictions of the synaptic tagging and capture theory of cellular consolidation (Frey and Morris, Nature 1997). This work involves a combination of behavioural (event-arena), electrophysiological (single-unit recording), anatomical (anterograde and retrograde tract tracing) and optogenetic manipulations. Project colleagues: Duszkiewicz, Spooner, Takeuchi, Tse, Tulloch.

Our research on systems consolidation (ERC Grant, Dart Neuroscience) involves (a) studies of rapid consolidation of schema-like paired-associate learning; (b) studies of the impact of novelty and sleep on spatial memory; (c) studies of the role of medial prefrontal cortex in the encoding and retrieval of spatial memory. Project colleagues: Genzel, Fitzpatrick, Nonaka, Rossato, Spooner, Tse, Tulloch.

Translational research
We have also long been engaged in applied/translational projects associated with the development of prospective immunization treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).  A focus of this work is on identifying cryptic forgetting in very young hAPP animals long before the development of amyloid plaques.  Project colleagues: Beglopoulos, Kelly, Tulloch.

Wood/Dudchenko Lab
Place Cells and Memory
A fundamental question in neurobiology is how neural representations of the world guide behaviour.  In the mammalian brain, a particularly tractable representation of the environment is that provided by place cells in the hippocampus.  These neurones fire when an animal occupies a specific location within a bounded environment, and the dominant view is that together they provide a cognitive map of external space.  Work in the Wood/Dudchenko lab seeks to better understand how this representation guides behaviour, and how it interacts with other neural systems.

Current projects include assessment of place cell fragmentation – the repetition of place fields in environments (such as a maze or a multi-chamber compartment) and spatial behaviour.  This work is conducted by Roddy Grieves and Bryan Jenkins.  A second project looks at how place cells in the hippocampus are influenced by their entorhinal cortex inputs.  This work, done in mice, is led by Tizzy Allison and Julia Thomas, and supervised by Emma Wood.  A third major project in the lab examines the role of the head direction cell system in spatial behaviour and in the spatial firing of entorhinal cortex grid cells.  This work will be conducted by Bruce Harland and Paul Dudchenko.  These projects are supported with funding from the Human Frontiers Science Program and the BBSRC.

Translational research
One of the leading causes of intellectual disability in boys is Fragile X syndrome.  In collaboration with Peter Kind, Antonis Asiminas and Emma Wood are examining the cognitive impairments found in a rat model of the disease.