The Lab

The Memory Control Lab is a cognitive neuroscience research lab at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England, focused on studying the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie people's ability to control memory, and how we might intervene to alleviate disordered control of memory. The laboratory thus conducts basic science on the nature of cognitive control, memory, and their interaction with an eye towards developing an understanding of these processes that may benefit people.

The lab employs state of the art techniques and analytical approaches to address its scientific and translational goals by combining cognitive assessments, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), in both normal populations and clinical populations with disordered control over memory.

Under the direction of Dr. Michael Anderson, the lab supports undergraduates, masters students, PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting scientists in their research and educational development.


Research in the Memory Control Lab takes advantage of state of the art research facilities at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences unit, including an on-site MRI Scanner, MEG scanner, EEG laboratory and abundant and well equipped human behavioural testing facilities.

MRI Scanner

The CBU operates an MRI testing facility that includes a Siemens 3T Tim Trio, assistance from professional dedicated radiographers, a range of stimulus presentation and response collection devices, scanner compatible psychophysiological hardware. The CBU also includes research active MR Physics expertise working to enhance and expand imaging capability at the unit. Follow this link to learn more about the MRI Scanner.

MEG Scanner

The CBU operates an MEG research laboratory, available to all unit scientists. The device installed at the CBU is a 306-channel Vectorview system (Elekta Neuromag, Helsinki) which combines 204 planar gradiometers, 102 magnetometers and 124 EEG channels providing comprehensive high-density coverage of electromagnetic brain activity. Using MEG technology, we are now able to record brain activation in real time and produce "activation films" that indicate the spreading of excitation through different parts of the brain. The activation waves, or spatio-temporal patterns, can be related to cognitive processes, such as language comprehension, object analysis or motor planning. Follow this link to learn more about the MEG Scanner.

EEG Laboratory

The CBU operates a research dedicated EEG facility. We employ a 128-channel, active electrode BrainAmp (Brain Products) EEG setup and all recordings are performed in an acoustically and electrically shielded chamber. The lab is equipped with a Polhemus Digitisation System, as well as with E-Prime and Cogent stimulation systems. For data processing, we have available the software packages SPM, Curry, MNE, BESA, ASA, Scan, Brain Vision Analyzer, etc. Follow this link to learn more about the EEG Laboratory.

Human Behaviour Testing Facilities

The CBU has a large number of well equipped behavioural testing rooms dedicated for basic research on cognitive processes. There are 12 labs (two with soundproofing), all equipped with PCs with E-prime, Presentation, DMDX and other stimulus presentation packages. Standard response boxes are available, but custom built response devices are also possible, through the expertise of outstanding technical staff.

Psychophysiology laboratory

The CBU currently runs two psychophysiology laboratories, using BIOPAC MP100 systems to record heart rate (HR), galvanic skin response (GSR), and electromyography (EMG) data. These serve as valuable measures of peripheral nervous system function in a variety of experimental designs. We also have a BIOPAC MP150 system that can measure GSR and HR in the fMRI environment. Data is analysed using BIOPAC Acqknowledge software and also via software developed in-house.

Eye Tracking

The CBU currently has 4 eye trackers. One is in the MEG lab, one in the MRI scanner, and we have two separate eye trackers for use in other locations. All eye trackers are manufactured by SMI and use the same SMI software for controlling the eye tracking hardware, for stimulus presentation and for analysis of the eye tracking data. In addition, all trackers can also be used with E-Prime and other custom experiment presentation software.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

TMS allows us to noninvasively excite neurons so that we can examine the necessity of brain regions for achieving a certain cognitive operation. A focal magnetic pulse, applied to the scalp, excites the underlying cortical neurons and depending on the method, can have either a facilitating or perturbing influence on the outcome of their activity. By applying to an area hypothesized to be involved in, say, retrieval, we can thus examine whether that brain areas is necessary for retrieval by temporarily perturbing its function.  TMS facilities are available for research conducted by members of the Memory Control lab in the Herschel Smith Building.

CBU Volunteer Panel

Research at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit is supported by a panel of volunteer members of the public who take part in our studies of attention, emotion, memory and language. We have over a thousand volunteers on our panel, ranging in age from 16 to 80+, so that researchers at the unit can test theories about the functioning of the mind and brain, in healthy adults and following brain injury or disease. The unit also employs the SONA experiment sign up system to allow participants to sign up for unit experiments from the comfort of their own home.

Neuropsychology Patient Panel

Close contacts with the University teaching hospital have allowed the CBU to build up a substantial panel of subject volunteers with focal brain lesions (>300 patients), over 150 of these with standardised and normalised structural MRI, giving the Unit one of the most extensive patient bases worldwide for human neuropsychology.

fMRI Data Analysis Resources

The unit maintains an fMRI analysis wiki for supporting the training of new students in fMRI data analysis techniques.

Relationships with other Cambridge Research Groups

Members of the Memory Control Lab interact regularly with several groups at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences unit and the Department of Experimental Psychology. These interactions foster a cooperative atmosphere that provides a rich array of opportunities for collaboration.

Memory and Perception Group

Members of the Memory Control Lab meet on a bi-weekly basis as part of the Memory and Perception Group at the CBU, which is composed of several groups, including those of Rik Henson, Susan Gathercole, Dennis Norris, and Niko Kriegskorte. Topics include research on memory control, aging, priming, dual process models of recognition memory, computational modelling of memory, object perception, verbal working memory, cognitive training, and the development of memory. The Memory Control Lab has collaborative work with Rik Henson examining the effects of retrieval suppression on repetition priming.

Attention Group

Research in the Memory Control Lab could equally fall within the attention group. The abilities to override memory retrieval and selectively attend to some traces and not others are fundamentally issues of attentional control, applied to memory representations rather than to actions or percepts. As such, natural relationships exist between the work conducted in the attention group and the Memory Control Lab. The Memory Control Lab has collaborative work with members of the attention group. For instance, with James Rowe, we are studying the role of inhibitory processes in motor action, and their relationship to memory inhibition processes.

Emotion Group

Research on Memory Control has obvious implications for emotion regulation, and so touches on research conducted within the emotion research group. For instance, suppressing retrieval of an unwanted memory is one key tool that people have in controlling their emotional response to a stimulus. As such, understanding the fundamental mechanisms of memory control may contribute to issues of clinical significance. The Memory Control Lab has collaborative work with Tim Dalgleish looking at memory control in post-traumatic stress disorder, and further, looking at plasticity in this process that can be exploited in the interests of remediation.

Behavioural and Clinical Neurosciences Institute

Research in the Memory Control Lab bears natural relationships to the work at the BCNI, with its joint emphasis on fundamental science and its clinical translation. With Trevor Robbins and James Rowe, members of the Memory Control Lab organized a quarterly interest group on Inhibitory Control, with a focus on facilitating collaborative opportunities. The emphasis on clinical neuroscience at the BCNI, including work on obsessive compulsive disorder, addiction, and impulsivity, and work using widely varying approaches such as pharmacology, behavioural analysis, imaging, and animal models, provide exciting opportunities for multi-level research on the basic science of cognitive control that could have profound translational opportunities.

Contact Information

Dr. Michael Anderson
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit
15 Chaucer Road
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 273695