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Professor Kim Graham BSc, PhD

Professor Kim Graham

BSc, PhD

Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Enterprise

+44 (0)29 2087 0652
Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Cardiff University. I am also a member of the UKRI MRC Council, the Wales Science and Innovation Advisory Council and the HEFCW Research Committee.

My research focuses on understanding how distinct brain circuits underpin different memory systems, and how damage to these networks influences risk and resilience to dementia across the lifespan. I use state-of-the-art scanning facilities at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) to ask how inter-individual variation in the structure and function of different brain networks is linked to human memory, such as our ability to remember events from the past.  With Professor Andrew Lawrence and Dr Mark Postans, and funded by the MRC, we are collaborating with the Bristol-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to investigate how genes associated with later life cognitive health influence brain structure and function, as well as cognitive performance in young adults, as well as their parents.

I am also interested in the evolution of memory systems, and am co-author on an award-winning book, The Evolution of Memory Systems.


Undergraduate education

My undergraduate degree (BSc Biological Sciences, Psychology, First Class Honours) was from Edinburgh University (1990), during which I was awarded the Class Medal for Psychology (1998) and the Drever Prize in Psychology (1990).

Postgraduate education

I undertook postgraduate education at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and St John's College, Cambridge University (PhD completed 1995). During this time, I worked with Professors John Hodges and Karalyn Patterson investigating language and memory in semantic dementia (Graham et al., 1994; Graham et al., 1995; Graham and Hodges, 1997).

Career Highlights

After my PhD, I stayed at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit where I was a Programme Leader, with responsibilty for two major programmes of research on memory disorders, including dementia.

I moved to Cardiff University in 2007, where I took up a position as Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. Since then, I have been Theme Lead for Mind, Brain and Neuroscience at the University (between 2012-2015), as well as Dean of Research in the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences (between 2015-2018). I am currently Cardiff University's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, a role I started in Septemer 2018.

Externally, I have held leadership positions for grant funders and organisations, including the role of Deputy Chair for the MRC Non-Clinical Career Development and Training Panel and panel member for REF 2014 UoA4. 

I am currently a member of the Wales Science and Innovation Advvisory Council, HEFCW Research Wales Committee and MRC Council.

Honours and awards

  • 1988: Class Medal in Psychology (Edinburgh University)
  • 1990: Drever Prize in Psychology (Edinburgh University)
  • 2005: Paul Bertelson Award (European Society for Cognitive Psychology)
  • 2014: Elected to AcademiaNet, a portal showcasing outstanding European female researchers
  • 2017: BMA Highly Commended Award, Neurology Category, 'The Evolution of Memory Systems'
  • 2017: Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award Holder
  • 2020: British Psychological Society, Academic Monograph Award 2020 for ‘The Evolution of Memory Systems’

Professional memberships

  • British Neuroscience Association
  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Memory Disorders Research Society.

Academic positions

Sept 2018 – present: Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Cardiff University

Aug 2015-Sept 2018: Dean of Research, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Cardiff University

Mar 2013-Mar 2016: Theme Lead, Cardiff University Research Theme ‘Mind, Brain & Neuroscience.

Mar 2007-present: Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

Jun 2002-Feb 2007: Programme Leader, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

Jan 2001-Jun 2002: Scientist (Career Track), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK

Feb-Aug 2001: Visiting Scholar, Department of Psychology, UC Berkeley, USA.

Oct 1997-Dec 2000: Postdoctoral Scientist, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

April 1995-Sep1997: Wellcome Research Associate, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Speaking engagements

Memory is a topic that the public is extremely interested in, and I am happy to engage with the media, including undertaking radio, TV and newspaper interviews, and discussing the implications of our, and others, research findings.

Talks and interviews

  • 2000: BBC World Radio: Interviewed for Discovery Series, “Memory Disorders”
  • 2001: BBC Radio 4: Interviewed for scientific series on, “Human Memory”
  • 2001: Noticias (South American version of ‘Time’): Article on “Human Memory”
  • 2002: BBC Radio 4, Interviewee, “In Our Times – Science of Memory”
  • 2005: BBC World Radio: Interviewed for programmes on “Exploring Memory”
  • 2006: Research reported in Reuters, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Cambridge Evening News
  • 2006: BBC Radio 4: Interviewee,  “Sharpen Your Memory”, Memory Experience programmes
  • 2006: BBC Look East: Intervieew, 100th Centenary of first published case of Alzheimer's disease
  • 2014: Invited guest, International Longevity Centre, House of Lords
  • 2014: Games presenter, Cardiff Brain Games, Cardiff Museum.
  • 2014: Invited panel discussant, Cardiff SciScreen, ‘Iris’.
  • 2016: Member of Seren Network, helping Welsh sixth-formers gain access to leading Universities
  • 2016: Invited panel discussant, Cardiff SciScreen, ‘Away from Her’.
  • 2017: Article for Health Check Wales on ‘Different forms of dementia’.
  • 2017: Pint of Science talk, Beautiful Mind, Cardiff
  • 2019: Publication of Evolutionary Road to Human Memory (Oxford University Press)

Committees and reviewing

Current External Grant Committees

  • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (Panel Chair and Roving Panellist)

Past External Grant Committees

  • MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board 
  • MRC Centenary Award Panel 
  • MRC Addiction Capacity Building Programme Panel 
  • MRC Addiction and Substance Abuse Research Strategy Oversight Group 
  • The Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship Panel 
  • Dementias Platform UK Steering Group 
  • MRC Non-Clinical Training and Career Development Panel (Deputy Chair)
  • MRC Stratified Medicine Panel 
  • Medical Sciences Foundation, Emerging Leaders Prize Panel (Core Panellist)
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK, Early Career Researcher Panel 
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK, Network Assessment Panel































I have taught Year 1 students on PS2020 (Language and Memory), Year 3 students on PS3208 (Memory Processes and Memory Disorders) and MSc Neuroimaging students on PST505 (Memory: Functions and Failures).

These lectures introduce students to disorders of memory, in particular amnesia, semantic dementia, semantic aphasia and encephalitis. They also cover advanced brain imaging techniques, such as functional neuroimaging (fMRI), diffusion MRI, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). 

By bringing together findings from different cognitive neuroscience methods, students acquire an in-depth and rich understanding of cognitive neuroscience as a discipline, and how these studies have informed our understanding of the neuroanatomical and functional architecture of human memory. 

This teaching is additionally informed by work on the evolution of memory, specifically how human memory has been refined and developed over many millions of years, informed by the memory systems developed in our ancestors. Our book The Evolutionary Road to Human Memory, outlines this work in an easily accessible form, designed for students and the public who know less about neuroscience and brain anatomy.


I am interested in understanding how the brain has developed, over evolution, to support different forms of human memory, and how damage to those brain networks leads to memory disorders, such as dementia.  With Dr Elisabeth Murray and Dr Steven Wise, I co-authored an award-winning book, The Evolution of Memory Systems, which outlines a novel account of how different representational (memory) systems emerged over evolution, and how these networks form the framework for our modern (human) memory.

Currently, my lab, which is run jointly with Professor Andrew Lawrence, is working on the following research projects:

Inter-individual differences in memory

Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, we are interested in how variations in the structure and function of different brain systems can explain inter-individual variations in memory performance.  We previously showed that microstructure of white matter tracts - the major motorways of the brain - is linked to memory performance, and are now interested in the relationship between white matter, brain function and behaviour. We are also studying how early in the lifespan these key inter-individual variations may emerge via studies in children.

Dissecting hippocampal subfield contributions to memory

With Dr Carl Hodgetts, funded by the BBSRC, we are using ultra-high field 7T MRI to investigate how different hippocampal subfields support distinct forms of human memory. This works focuses on the subiculum, which is thought to be a critical hub region for complex spatial and event memories, with our studies aiming to generate a macroscale neural-systems level understanding of how the subiculum contributes to healthy human memory and imagination.

Risk and resilience to dementia

Representational accounts of memory, such as that outlined in The Evolution of Memory Systems, provide an interesting and novel framework to understand memory disorders, in particular dementia. With Professor Andrew Lawrence and Dr Jiaxiang Zhang, we are currently testing whether young adults show functional and anatomical brain alterations that parallel later life deficits we have previously reported in individuals with Alzheimer's disease. We have also developed a new smart app which allows testing of cognitive performance on tasks sensitive to later life cognitive decline, and are currently using this to investigate the link between genetic risk, cognitive performance and age. This work is funded by the MRC.

Key Current Funding

  • 2021-2024 - BBSRC: The subiculum: a key interface between scene representation and event memory? Lead PIs: Hodgetts & Lawrence. Co-PIs: Aggleton, Zhang, Graham £1.2M
  • 2021-2023 - The Waterloo Foundation: How does hippocampal maturation support the development of human memory?  PI: Graham. Co-PIs: Zhang, Lawrence, Hodgetts, Adlam and Langley £300K
  • 2018-2023 - Royal Society: Inter-individual differences in representational systems underpinning human memory.  Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award. £50K
  • 2017-2021 - MRC: Characterising brain network differences during scene perception and memory in APOE-e4 carriers: multi-modal imaging in ALSPAC.  Lead PIs: Graham & Lawrence. Co-PIs: Saksida, Jones, Wise, Filippini, Mackay, Kordas.  £1.75M
  • 2016-2021 - Wellcome Trust: Institutional Strategic Support Fund.  PI: Graham. £3.5M (with £3.5M matched institutional funding).
  • 2016-2021 - Wellcome Trust: Multi-scale and multi-modal assessment of coupling in the healthy and diseased brain.  Lead PI: Jones, Co-PIs: Assaf, Chambers, Graham, Jezzard, Linden, Morris, Nutt, Sumner, Singh, Wise.  £5.9M


I have successfully supervised over 25 PhD and clinical fellows all of whom successfully completed their PhD within four year, and passed with only minor corrections.

Students wishing to work in the group should be interested in human memory and / or aging, particularly in the context of testing  hypotheses from representational accounts in which extended neural circuits support distinct aspects of human memory (e.g., Graham et al., 2010).

Skills in neuroimaging are likely to be required, as much of our research involves application of multi-modal imaging approaches to test predictions about the functionality of these neural circuits.  Our translational research involves research with young and older individuals at increased genetic risk of poorer later life cognitive health, but also collaboration with researchers working on ageing and dementia in low-to-middle income countries (e.g., India). We are also starting to undertake work on memory development, which involves cognitive and brain imaging studies in children.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding potential postgraduate research projects, please contact me directly, or submit a formal application.

Current students

Past projects

  • 2014-2019: Matthew Jones (WIN ESRC Wales DTC PhD Studentship), School of Psychology, Cardiff University
  • 2014-2017: Martina Stefani (School PhD Student), School of Psychology, Cardiff University
  • 2013-2017: Rebecca Cavill (WIN ESRC Wales DTC PhD Studentship), School of Psychology Cardiff University (jointly with Andrew Lawrence)
  • 2013-2016: Hannah Chandler (ESRC Wales DTC PhD Studentship), School of Psychology Cardiff University (jointly with Paul Downing, Bangor University).
  • 2013-2016: Alison Costigan (Cardiff NMHRI PhD Student), School of Psychology Cardiff University (jointly with Julie Williams, Cardiff University)
  • 2012-2015: Mark Postans (part BBSRC, part School funded), School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
  • 2009-2013: Jonathan Shine (School funded), School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
  • 2007-2010: Hilary Watson (MRC Studentship), School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
  • 2005-2008: Karen Taylor (MRC Studentship), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 2004-2007: Samrah Ahmed (Alzheimer’s Research Trust Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 2002-2005: Morgan Barense (MRC Predoctoral Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 2001-2005: Chris Butler (Clinical Research Fellow), University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
  • 2001-2005: Andrew Graham (Wellcome Clinical Research Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 2001-2005: Fiona Clague (Alzheimer Research Trust Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 2001-2004: Toby Cumming (Commonwealth Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 2002-2003: Rhys Davies (MRC Clinical Research Fellow), Department of Neurology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
  • 2000-2003: Sian Thompson (MRC Clinical Research Fellow), Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
  • 1999-2003: Anna Kropelnicki (MRC Studentship), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
  • 1997-1998: Jon Simons (MRC Studentship), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge