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Neural representation of complex space

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How do our brains construct a representation of large-scale space, to be used in wayfinding? The study of single neurons in rodents has been enormously useful in helping answer this question for simple, two-dimensional environments. However, the real world is neither simple nor two-dimensional. In this talk I will focus on recent studies exploring how spatial neurons may collaborate in representing three-dimensional and complex spaces.

Biography: Kate Jeffery is Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London. A medical graduate, she began her neuroscience career in the laboratories of Cliff Abraham and Richard Morris, researching synaptic plasticity and its relationship to learning and memory. From there she undertook a postdoc with John O’Keefe at University College London, learning to study spatially sensitive neurons at the single-cell level, after which she took up a lectureship across the road in the Division of Psychology, where she has been ever since and where she continues to study how neural encoding is related to spatial cognition. In 2006 she founded the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience (IBN), a group comprising several animal researchers who use physiological methods to study cognition. Between 2010 and 2013 she was head of the Research Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences (now Experimental Psychology), after which she stepped down to concentrate more fully on research, recently securing a Wellcome Investigator Award to conduct a five-year study of how the spatially sensitive neurons encode complex spaces. In addition to research she is also co-director, with her husband Jim Donnett, of the electrophysiology instrumentation company Axona Ltd.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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