The Bird Lab in the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

By Christiane Oedekoven

In the Episodic Memory Group (also known as the Bird lab,, we are interested in how people remember events and how that is reflected in underlying brain functions.

From left to right, Dr Chris Bird, Dr Sam Berens and Christiane

From left to right, Dr Chris Bird, Dr Sam Berens and Dr Christiane Oedekoven

During our recent visit to the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, the Bird lab met about 28,897 fellow neuroscientists. We spent 5 days looking at a fraction of the 14,000 posters on site and enjoyed various talks on new developments in the field. We were especially excited by a symposium on multivariate pattern analysis in medial temporal lobe. One study showed that people hearing the storyline of a video they never saw, showed similar brain activation to people that had actually seen the video…believe it or not. It seems like current neuroimaging research in memory is moving more and more towards pattern analysis. But still, very few groups work with videos as memory stimuli in the MRI scanner, like we do.

There was a huge interest in our two posters, which Sam Berens and I presented in one long morning session. As the morning progressed, we had clusters of people in front of our posters who wanted to hear everything about how “Configural learning engages the semantic memory system but generalisation involves the hippocampus” and “Stable representations of lifelike events over the course of one week”. The poster session is 4 hours long and it was taking its toll, by the end we were both very hoarse. In my poster I discussed a kind of memory signature. When people remember a video immediately and a week later, there is a stable pattern of brain activation that is specific to the memory.

Despite the fact that there are many thousands of people in the convention centre (apparently this conference can only be held in a small number of venues, as most are not big enough) we saw quite a few people coincidentally, meeting up with old colleagues and making new acquaintances. We also met

Eisuke Koya and Joe Ziminski (, who also presented a poster.

Overall, it is definitely a conference worth going to, the sheer size is impressive, the scope, and it is a fantastic opportunity to see the latest advances in the field.

Find out more about our research on Cognitive Psychology.

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