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Brain models

Cognitive neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience explores how the brain supports the cognitive processes that drive our thoughts, memories, communication, decision-making and action. Our research investigates cognitive and brain models, and asks how groups of neurons, entire brain structures and networks of brain structures work alone, and together, to support cognition, action and behaviour.

Cognitive neuroscience at Manchester is supported by a strong platform of expertise in experimental psychology, neuroimaging and computational modelling. It draws directly on collaborations with basic and clinical neuroscientists. This is complemented by an internationally recognised strength in neuropsychology, which enjoys access to a large population of neurological, neuropsychiatric and neurosurgical patients.

Our research questions address a range of areas, spanning language, communication, memory, learning, perception, action and decision-making with a focus on understanding not only how the healthy brain supports these functions, but also on how they are influenced or impaired by acute brain damage, neurodegeneration, and developmental disorders.

Our approach is to develop compelling models of cognitive and behaviour, combine these with neuroimaging methods optimised for the question at hand, and constrain data interpretation with behavioural and neurophysiological data or with the application of computational modelling.

Our cognitive neuroscience is therefore underpinned by experimental excellence, and strives to bridge basic and clinical neuroscience in an effort to address some of society’s most pressing mental health needs.

Areas of research activity

  • Language and communication
  • Memory
  • Perception, action and decision making
  • Ageing and cognition
  • Neuropsychology
  • Neuroimaging methods
  • Eye tracking and neurophysiological measurement
  • Mathematical and computational modelling

Eye tracking lab at The University of Manchester

Major projects

Towards a unified, computationally implemented neural network for understanding semantic cognition

Professor Matt Lambon Ralph has been awarded a £2m MRC Programme Grant for research which aims to generate a neuroanatomically-constrained, computational framework capable of synthesising semantic behaviour, providing an explanation for semantic deficits across all diseases and to use knowledge to inform clinical assessment, management and intervention.

Developing and delivering neurocomputational models to bridge between brain and mind

Professor Matt Lambon Ralph has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to initiate a new drive towards the ultimate goal of cognitive neuroscience; to specify how neural machinery synthesises cognitive function and dysfunction after brain damage, at a computational-mechanistic level.

Is the medial temporal lobe heterogeneous for recollection and familiarity memory?

Sometimes we recall information and sometimes we just find something familiar. These two distinct forms of memory break down differently with age and work somewhat independently. Professor Daniela Montaldi has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant to identify the brain systems that support them, using brain imaging to test people with amnesia and other memory disorders.

Quantification of vascular and neuronal pathology in dementia using PET and MRI

Dr Laura Parkes has been awarded a £1m EPSRC grant to develops tools that will transform the diagnosis and management of patients with early dementia by combining the strengths of MRI and PET in diagnostic procedures that will be practical for widespread future routine use in clinical imaging.

When words speak off the page: Covert emotional prosodic processing in silent reading of direct quotations

Dr Bo Yao’s project, funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant, explores how and why the brain generates “inner voices” during silent reading of speech quotations, with potential implications for written language processing and auditory verbal hallucinations.

Investigation of the role of timing processes in autism

Everyday problems with timing and concepts of time are regularly reported by people with autism and their family and friends. However it is not known whether problems with thinking about past, present and future are also linked with problems of lower level timing of sensory events (sounds, lights and touch). The ESRC-funded project, led by Dr Luke Jones, will investigate timing processes from fundamental perceptual time discrimination through to concepts of time and temporality and will measure if and how these are linked.

Patient in MRI machine

Featured researchers

Electroencephalogram (EEG)


Professor Daniela Montaldi