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Professor Kim Graham BSc, PhD

Professor Kim Graham

BSc, PhD

Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Enterprise

School of Psychology

+44 (0)29 2087 0468
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ
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 Deputy Chair for the Medical Research Council, Non-Clinical Career Development and Training Panel.

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 am also interested in the evolution of memory systems, and am co-author on an Oxford University Press book, The Evolution of Memory Systems.

Working with Professor Andrew Lawrence and Dr Carl Hodgetts, 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 extended brain networks is associated with successful memory (e.g., learning and autobiographical memory).  With Dr Angharad Williams and Dr Mark Postans, we are also collaborating with the 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 behaviour, in young adults.


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 also joint lead for the University Research Network in Mind, Brain and Computation. I am the incoming Cardiff University Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, starting in September 2018.

Externally, I have held leadership positions for a number of grant funders and organisations, the latter including Dementias Platform UK where I was responsible for early career researchers. I was also a panel member for REF 2014 UoA4, and have advised various UK and International organisations on REF-related matters. I am currently the Deputy Chair for the MRC Non-Clinical Career Development and Training Panel.

Honours and awards

  • 1988: Class Medal in Psychology (Edinburgh University)
  • 1990: Drever Prize in Psychology (Edinburgh University)
  • 2003: Freda Newcombe Lecture (British Neuropsychology Society)
  • 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

Professional memberships

  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Memory Disorders Research Society.

Academic positions

Sept 2018 – Aug 2021: 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”
  • 2002-2004: New Scientist (occasionally consulted on articles to do with 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
  • 2013: Poster presentation (PhD Student, Jon Shine) at ‘Set for Britain’, House of Commons.
  • 2013: Cognitive neuroscience introduction and training for secondary school students
  • 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.

Committees and reviewing

Current External Committee and Reviewing Duties

  • MRC Non-Clinical Training and Career Development Panel (Deputy Chair)
  • MRC Stratified Medicine Panel (Member)
  • Medical Sciences Foundation, Emerging Leaders Prize Panel (Core Member)
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK, Early Career Researcher Panel (Member)
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK, Network Assessment Panel (Member)

Past External Committee and Reviewing Duties

  • MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board (Member, 2010-2015)
  • MRC Centenary Award Panel (Member, 2012)
  • MRC Addiction Capacity Building Programme Panel (Member, 2012)
  • MRC Addiction and Substance Abuse Research Strategy Oversight Group (Member, 2012-2014)
  • The Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship Panel (Member, 2011-2016)
  • Dementias Platform UK Steering Group (Member, 2016-2108)




























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 semantic dementia, semantic aphasia and encephalitis.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach, they aim to showcase how cognitive psychology and neuropsychology has been used to inform our understanding of human memory.

The more advanced lectures also introduce other informative cognitive neuroscience techniques, such as functional neuroimaging (fMRI), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and magnetoencephalography (MEG).


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 have co-authored a 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 have shown 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 starting to study how early in the lifespan these key inter-individual variations may emerge, and how experience with different forms of memory may alter behaviour.

Dissecting hippocampal subfield contributions to memory

For decades we have known that the hippocampus - a structure in the medial temporal lobe - is vital for human memory: damage to this structure typically results in a striking memory impairment. The hippocampus is not one structure, however, instead made up of many different subfields; we do not yet know how these different subfields contribute to human memory. With Dr Carl Hodgetts, I am using ultra-high field 7T MRI, which provides images of unprecedented detail of hippocampal subfields, to better understand how different hippocampal subfields may support distinct forms of human memory.

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, Dr Jiaxiang Zhang, and Dr Derek Jones we are currently testing whether young adults show key functional and anatomical brain changes that parallel later life deficits we have previously reported in individuals with Alzheimer's disease. This work is funded by the MRC. We also have an ESRC Multidisciplinary PhD Award which funded five PhD students working on the integration of biological and social science approaches to early diagnosis of dementia.

Enhancing dementia diagnosis in low-to-middle-income countries

Via a Global Challenges Foundation Award from the ESRC and MRC, we are currently working with colleagues in the US, India, Cuba and China to develop a new tablet-based app for diagnosis of different forms of dementia. The biggest impact of dementia will be most felt in countries which have limited clinical infrastructure and resources to address this significant health issue; this project aims to address this problem via developing and testing a novel suite of tasks for dementia diagnosis which can be applied in low-to-middle-income countries.

Current Funding

  • 2018 -  Developing low-cost cognitive tools for dementia assessment in India. Lawrence (PI), Umla-Runge, Graham, Costigan, Alladi.  £25,260.
  • 2018-2023 - Inter-individual differences in representational systems underpinning human memory.  Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award. £50K
  • 2018-2020 - University Research Network ‘Mind, Brain & Computation’.  Joint Lead with Lawrence. £15K.
  • 2018-2019 - How does genetic risk for late onset Alzheimer’s disease affect scene perception and memory in midlife?  A cohort study in ALSPAC.  PI: Graham; Co-Is: Costigan, Lawrence.  £50K.
  • 2017-2019 - MRC Global Challenges Foundation Award. Developing low-cost cognitive tools for dementia assessment in low-to-middle income countries (LMICs). PI: Graham, Co-PIs: Lawrence, Umla-Runge, Robertson, Miller, Chan, Li, Possin, Llibre Guerra, Valdes-Sosa, Kramer, Llibre Rodriguez, Bobes.  £575K.
  • 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).
  • 2017-2020 - MRC UK Dementia Research Institute Momentum Award.  Cardiff University: Application for a Momentum award – dementias.  PI: Thomas, Co-PI: Graham, Allen, Jones, Morgan, Taylor, Williams. £962K.
  • 2016-2021 - 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
  • 2013-2018 - ESRC Multidisciplinary PhD Pilot Scheme – Wales Integrative PhD programme in Neurodegeneration (WIN):  Unifying Social and Biological Approaches to Early Detection of Dementia.  (Joint lead PIs: Graham, Lawrence, Co-PI: Hedgecoe, Haddock, Maio, Wise, Woods, Morris, Williams, Latimer).  £550,000.


I have successfully supervised over 18 PhD and clinical fellows during my research career to date. Students wishing to work in the group should have strong interests in human memory, particularly in the context of representational accounts in which extended neural circuits support distinct aspects of human memory (eg, Graham et al., 2010).

Skills in neuroimaging would also be highly advantageous, 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 individuals at increased genetic risk of poorer later life cognitive health, but also involves collaboration with researchers working on ageing and dementia in low-to-middle income countries (via our work on an app for dementia diagnosis).

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

Current students

Past projects

  • 2014-2017: Martina Stefani (School PhD Student), Cardiff University School of Psychology.

  • 2013-2017: Rebecca Cavill (WIN ESRC Wales DTC PhD Studentship), Cardiff University School of Psychology (jointly with Andrew Lawrence).

  • 2013-2016: Hannah Chandler (ESRC Wales DTC PhD Studentship), Cardiff University School of Psychology (jointly with Paul Downing, Bangor University).

  • 2013-2016: Alison Costigan (Cardiff NMHRI PhD Student), Cardiff University School of Psychology (jointly with Richard Wise, CUBRIC and Julie Williams, MRC CNGG).

  • 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, UK.

  • 2004-2007: Samrah Ahmed (Alzheimer’s Research Trust Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

  • 2002-2005: Morgan Barense (MRC Predoctoral Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

  • 2001-2005: Chris Butler (Clinical Research Fellow), University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK –

  • 2001-2005: Andrew Graham (Wellcome Clinical Research Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

  • 2001-2005: Fiona Clague (Alzheimer Research Trust Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

  • 2001-2004: Toby Cumming (Commonwealth Fellow), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

  • 2002-2003: Rhys Davies (MRC Clinical Research Fellow), Department of Neurology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK.

  • 2000-2003: Sian Thompson (MRC Clinical Research Fellow), Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK.

  • 1999-2003: Anna Kropelnicki (MRC Studentship), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

  • 1997-1998: Jon Simons (MRC Studentship), MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.