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Professor John Aggleton FRS, FMedSci, BA MA Cantab, DPhil Oxon

Professor John Aggleton

FRS, FMedSci, BA MA Cantab, DPhil Oxon


+44 (0)29 2087 4563
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT


My research concerns the neural basis of cognition (especially memory), using a variety of methodologies to understand the interactions between supporting brain networks. 

I have been Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology since 1994 and my research examines the architecture of the brain and how various brain structures cooperate to support different forms of memory. This research is multidisciplinary, bringing together neuroanatomy, behavioural neuroscience, and neuropsychology, to help reveal and understand contrasting neural pathways for recognition memory and episodic memory.  One specific focus has been on cortical – subcortical interactions that support spatial memory and attention in rodents.

I am a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2002 -), the Learned Society of Wales (2011 -),  and a Fellow of the Royal Society (2012 -).

I have published over 300 scientific papers, and am a former President of the European Brain and Behaviour Society (2004 -2006) and of the British Neuroscience Association (2015-2017).


Undergraduate education

1965-72: Trinity School, Croydon 1973-6: B.A. University of Cambridge, Clare College; Natural Sciences

Postgraduate education

1980: D.Phil., Jesus College, University of Oxford, Thesis: Anatomical and Functional Subdivisions of the Amygdala. Supervisor: Dr. R.E. Passingham


1994-present: Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology, University of Wales, Cardiff 1992-1994: Senior Lecturer, Department of   Psychology, University of Durham 1983–1992: Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Durham 1980-1983: NIH Visiting Fellow, National   Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Laboratory of Neuropsychology (Head: Dr. M. Mishkin)

Honours and awards

Awards/external committees

Awards etc

2002: Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci)
2004-6: President of the European Brain and Behaviour Society
2006: Experimental Psychology Society – 4th Mid Career Award Prize
2007-9: Council Member, Academy of Medical Sciences
2009-2014: Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award
2011 - Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales
2012: Fellow of the Royal Society.
2015 - 2017 President of British Neuroscience Association
2009    Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science
2011 – Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales
2012 – Fellow of the Royal Society
2013 – Honorary Chair, Leicester University
2015 – 2017 President of the British Neuroscience Association

External Committees

Editorial Boards 1997-2000: European Journal of   Neuroscience - Receiving Editor 1990-1993: Quarterly Journal of Experimental   Psychology - Section B Associate Editor 1995-present: Brain Research   Bulletin - Editorial Advisory Board 1995-present: Neuroscience and   Biobehavioral Reviews - Editorial Advisory Board 1998-present: Behavioural   Brain Research - Editorial Board 1998-present: Behavioral Neuroscience -   Editorial Board 2000-present: European Journal of Neuroscience – Editorial   Board 2001-present: Neuropsychologia –Board of Associate Editors

National Committees 1993-1995: MRC - NAHH (Neuroscience   Approach to Human Health) Steering Committee 1996-2002: MRC - Neurosciences   and Mental Health Studentships Allocation Panel 1997: MRC - Clinical Training   and Career Development Panel 1997-2001: MRC - Neurosciences and Mental   Health Board 1997-2002: MRC - Clinical Trials - Clinical Cross-Board   subgroup 2003-2004: MRC – Cross Board 2008-present: MRC ad hoc   committees

2004-2007: Wellcome Trust  - Cognitive and Higher Systems Funding   Committee 2004-2007: Wellcome Trust  - Neuroscience and Mental Health (Joint)   Committee 2007-present: Wellcome Trust  - Chair of Cognitive and Higher   Systems Funding Committee 2007-present: Wellcome Trust  - Co Chair   Neuroscience and Mental Health (Joint) Committee 2008-present: Wellcome   Trust  - Strategy Committee for  Neuroscience and Mental Health 2009-present: British Neuroscience Association - Scientific Strategy Board

Wellcome Trust – Chair of Expert Review Group 3: Cognitive Neuroscience and Mental Health 2013 – 2017

Wellcome Trust - Interview Panels for grants/fellowships 2013, 2017, 2018

British Neuroscience Association, Scientific Strategy Board 2009 – 2014

British Neuroscience Association, Council member   2013 – 2019

Learned Society of Wales - Admissions Scrutiny Committee A1 2012 – 2014

Royal Society – Sectional Committee 8    2015 – 2018

Royal Society – Research System Community of Members 2019

Academy of Medical Sciences – Sectional Committee    2019 –

Royal Society & Wellcome Trust – Chair Sir Henry Dale Fellowship Committee 2020 -

International Committees

2004-2006: President of the   European Brain and Behaviour Society 2002-2004: Council member of the   European Brain and Behaviour Society 2004-2006: Council member of FENS   (Federation of European Neuroscience Societies) 2008: Programme   committee member for FENS (Geneva) 2007: International Jury for   Inaugural Evens Scientific Research Challenge

2017 – 2019: Council member of FENS (Federation of European Neuroscience Societies)

Professional memberships

Learned Society of Wales

Royal Society

Academy Medical Sciences

European Brain and Behaviour Society

British Neuroscience Association

Experimental Psychology Society






































Research topics and related papers

My research examines how different brain regions interact to support different forms of memory.  The focus of this research has largely been on two distinct regions within the brain, the medial temporal lobe and the medial diencephalon. These questions are being pursued at a variety of levels; anatomical, behavioural and clinical.  My anatomical studies examine the nature of the interactions between the temporal lobe and medial diencephalic structures, i.e., their origin, the routes taken within the brain, and the degree to which single pathways link multiple regions (see below).

My behavioural studies examine animal models of amnesic conditions.   For this reason, I am interested in refining learning tasks that tax the specific classes of cognitive problems found in amnesia.  An important component has been the development of new tests of recognition memory, so enabling the study of the neural basis of recognition memory.  I have proposed new models of how recognition memory and recall interact, and then tested these models with rodents and with clinical populations.  My current focus is on the role of the anterior thalamic nuclei and how they interact with the hippocampus.  This research, which is in close collaboration with researchers at Trinity College Dublin, is funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust. In this way, I am trying to tease apart the functional contributions of a series of parallel temporal – medial diencephalic pathways that conjointly support memory.

A further part of my research involves collaborating on clinical studies of amnesia.  In the past I have studied the effects on memory of surgeries to remove a colloid cyst in the third ventricle.  These patients showed an informative distinction between recognition memory (spared) and recall (impaired). More recently I have collaborated with neuroimagers studying white matter to help identify how different brain pathways support different aspects of cognition.


2020-2023 - BBSRC   Integrating and storing visuo-spatial cues in the retrosplenial cortex. With Frank Sengpiel (PI) and Seralynne Vann.

2016-2024 - Wellcome Trust PhD Programme in ‘Integrative Neuroscience’. Lead Applicant and Director.

2014-2021 - Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award (with Shane O’Mara, TCD). The cognitive thalamus: More than a relay.

2015 - Welsh Government. Research Award ‘Miniature microscopes to image neuronal ensembles in models of neuropsychiatric disorders’ Co-applicant with R. Brambilla, S. Vann, V. Crunelli, M. Good, J. Hall, F. Sengpiel, K. Thomas.

Research group

Current researchers based in Cardiff University include:  Dr Andrew Nelson, Dr Mathias Mathiasen, Ms Eman Amin, and Ms Steliana Yanakieva.

Research collaborators

UK based

Professor Zafir Bashir, Bristol University

Professor Clea Warburton Bristol University

Dr Seralynne Vann, Cardiff University

Dr Joseph O’Neill, Cardiff University

Dr Claudia Metzler-Baddeley, Cardiff University

Dr Michael Craig, Glasgow University


Professor Michael O’Sullivan, Perth Australia

Professor Shane O'Mara, Trinity College, Dublin


Postgraduate research interests

There are currently two different, but related, programmes of research.

The first programme concerns temporal lobe structures and how they interact to support different forms of recognition memory. The principal area of interest concerns the behavioural analysis of recognition memory and other closely related forms of memory. Structural interactions are examined with a mixture of lesion, gene-expression and anatomical studies.

The second programme concerns the functions of structures in the diencephalon (thalamus and hypothalamus), and how these structures support memory. Here the focus is more on aspects of spatial memory. As part of this research, the significance of the links between the temporal lobe and diencephalon are also of especial interest.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application.

Current students

Ms Julie Dumont

Past projects

Previous students

R. Kentridge "Dopamine and the Perception of Reward"  Ph.D  Durham   University, 1988.  Currently - Reader, Department of Psychology, Durham   University.

C. Shaw "The Neural Basis of Associative Memory: An Examination of   Cross-Species

Comparisons"  Ph.D  Durham University, 1992.  Currently - University   Secretary and Director of Corporate Services and Human Resources (Cardiff   University).

N. Neave  “Thalamo-cortical contributions to spatial working memory in the   rat”  Ph.D Durham University, 1996.  Currently - Senior Lecturer, Department of   Psychology, University of Northumbria.

P. Hunt  “ An examination of the effects of thalamic lesions on learning and   memory in rats”  Ph.D.  Open University, 1999.  Currently - Biological Standards   Officer, Cardiff University.

S. Dix “Using dual-process theories to re-examine the neural substrates of   recollective and familiarity processes in recognition”  Ph.D Cardiff University   2000.  Currently  - Senior Scientist, Neurodegeneration Drug Hunting Team, Eli   Lilley.

S. D. Vann    “Neural systems underlying spatial memory”  Ph.D Cardiff   University, 2000. Currently a  BBSRC (David Phillips) Research Fellow

D. Sanderson  “The hippocampus and structural learning”  Ph.D. Cardiff   University, 2005.  Currently - Research Associate,  Dept. Experimental   Psychology, University of Oxford.

K. Shires  “Using IEGs to uncover pathways for spatial learning in the rat.”    Ph. D. Cardiff University, 2006 Currently - Research Associate, Neuroscience   Department, Edinburgh University

G. Poirier  “Sensitivity of the retrosplenial cortex to distal damage in a   network associated with spatial memory.”  Ph.D. Cardiff University. 2007    Post-doctoral research scientist, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne,   Brain Mind Institute, Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics

M. Albasser   "The use of immediate-early gene expression to map the   relationships between limbic structures supporting memory" Ph.D. Cardiff   University, 2009.   Currently Research Associate School of Psychology, Cardiff   University, 2010.