Memory & Space

Memory is at the very heart of our personality: the myriad snapshots of our daily experiences have a pervasive and enduring influence on the self. But how are these memories organized in the brain?

Knowledge about the neural mechanisms underlying spatial memory has been accumulated through electrophysiological studies in rodents. Place and grid cells in the hippocampal formation signal the animal’s position in its environment, but how do they support memory and guide behaviour? By combining functional neuroimaging with virtual reality techniques, we have shown that similar spatial representations exist in the human brain.

Our approach demonstrates the potential of non-invasive neuroimaging technologies to infer the fine-scale properties of neural systems in humans by building on models from single cell electrophysiology. We are now using these proxy measures of cellular aspects of cognition to investigate the specific neural mechanisms of encoding, stabilisation and readout of episodic memories, including translation into research on normal and pathological ageing.

Our research is articulated in three research lines:

  • Spatial representation: We want to understand how cell-type specific spatial representations help us to map and navigate our environment. In particular, we use high-field 7T scanning to bridge between cellular and systems level.
  • Memory reactivation: Our goal is to unravel the mechanisms (e.g. attractor dynamics) of how our brain reactivates and reconsolidates memories by combining fMRI and MEG with multivoxel-pattern analyses (MVPA).
  • Episodic memory: Using novel virtual reality tasks and MVPA, we are investigating how our brain integrates episodic memories into mnemonic networks.

Key grants and prizes

  • NWO Vidi Grant, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (2013-2018; 800K EUR)
  • ERC Starting Grant, European Research Council (2011-2016; 1475K EUR)
  • Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2010)

Latest publications

  • Bosch, SE, Jehee, JFM, Fernández, G & Doeller, CF (2014) Reinstatement of associative memories in early visual cortex is signaled by the hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience 34, 7493-500.
  • Harrison NA, Doeller CF, Voon V, Burgess N, Critchley HD (2014). Peripheral inflammation acutely impairs human spatial memory via actions on medial temporal lobe glucose metabolism. Biological Psychiatry, doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.01.005.
  • Barry C, Doeller CF (2013). 3D mapping in the brain. Science 340: 278-80.

Key publications

  • Doeller CF, Barry C, Burgess N. Evidence for grid cells in a human memory network. Nature. 2010 Feb 4;463(7281):657-61.
  • Doeller CF, Burgess N. Distinct error-correcting and incidental learning of location relative to landmarks and boundaries. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 15;105(15):5909-14.
  • Doeller CF, King JA, Burgess N. Parallel striatal and hippocampal systems for landmarks and boundaries in spatial memory. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 15;105(15):5915-20.
  • Bunzeck N, Doeller CF, Fuentemilla L, Dolan RJ, Duzel E. Reward motivation accelerates the onset of neural novelty signals in humans to 85 milliseconds. Curr Biol. 2009 Aug 11;19(15):1294-300.
  • Kaplan R, Doeller CF, Barnes GR, Litvak V, Düzel E, Bandettini PA, Burgess N. Movement-related theta rhythm in humans: coordinating self-directed hippocampal learning. PLoS Biol. 2012 Feb;10(2):e1001267.

Research Group
Memory and Space

Principal Investigator
Dr. C.F.A. Döller

Group members

Postdoctoral Researchers
Dr. Nico Adelhöfer
Dr. Branka Milivojevic

PhD students
Somayeh Ataei
Jacob Bellmund
Naomi de Haas
Loes Ottink
Jingyan Ren
Lonja Schürmann
Ben Steemers

Mathijs van Bakel
Olivia Brunet
Eva Spetter

Contact information

Location 024-3610651
Postal address
Postbus 9101