Kate Jeffery

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Kate Jeffery
Kate Jeffery.JPG
Alma mater University of Otago, University of Edinburgh
Scientific career
Institutions University College London
Academic advisors John O'Keefe

Kathryn Jane Jeffery is a neuroscientist from New Zealand. She is a professor of behavioural neuroscience at University College London. She studies how the brain encodes three-dimensional space and its role in navigation.


Early life and career

Jeffery graduated with a degree of MB ChB from the University of Otago in 1985. [1] After working as a house officer, she returned to the University of Otago to complete a master's degree in 1989 under the supervision of Cliff Abraham. [1] [2] She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 1993 under the supervision of Richard Morris. [1] [2] [3] During this time she worked in the same lab as May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser. [4] She went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher with John O'Keefe, who won the 2014 Nobel Prize for his work on place cells, at University College London. [1] [4] Jeffery correctly predicted he would win the Nobel Prize in a tweet. [4]

Jeffery stayed at University College London to become a lecturer and later a professor. [1] Here, she founded the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, of which she is also director. [1] [5]


Jeffery is particularly interested in the representation of 3D space in our brain. [6] [7] Her lab reported in 2011 that place cells and grid cells, special types of cells in the brain that are important for navigation, predominantly represent 3D space as a horizontal plane. [6] However, a later study from her lab showed that place cells can indeed represent 3D place. [8]

Jeffery also studies head direction cells, cells in the brain that represent the direction an animal is facing. [9] [7] [10]

Science and art

Jeffery has been involved in a number of projects linking neuroscience and art. She collaborated on the piece Spin Glass with Jenny Walsh and Jeremy Keenan, which represents the head direction network in the brain of an animal. [11] [12] She consulted on the Off-Broadway play The Nature of Forgetting, about how the brain represents memory. [13] [14] [15]

Jeffery is also interested in the link between architecture and the representation of location in the brain. She presented at the Conscious Cities conferences on how the design of environments affects the sense of direction. [16]

Environmental activism

Jeffery is a member of Extinction Rebellion, a climate emergency group. [17] She has spoken at Extinction Rebellion events on the science behind the climate emergency. [17] [18]


Jeffery is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation. [19] She is also a Vice-President for the Royal Institute of Navigation. [1] [19]

Selected publications

Related Research Articles

Entorhinal cortex Part of the brains cerebral cortex

The entorhinal cortex (EC) is an area of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe and functions as a hub in a widespread network for memory, navigation and the perception of time. The EC is the main interface between the hippocampus and neocortex. The EC-hippocampus system plays an important role in declarative (autobiographical/episodic/semantic) memories and in particular spatial memories including memory formation, memory consolidation, and memory optimization in sleep. The EC is also responsible for the pre-processing (familiarity) of the input signals in the reflex nictitating membrane response of classical trace conditioning; the association of impulses from the eye and the ear occurs in the entorhinal cortex.

Neuroscience scientific study of the nervous system

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. It is a multidisciplinary branch of biology that combines physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology, cytology, mathematical modeling, and psychology to understand the fundamental and emergent properties of neurons and neural circuits. The understanding of the biological basis of learning, memory, behavior, perception, and consciousness has been described by Eric Kandel as the "ultimate challenge" of the biological sciences.

Hippocampus brain region correlated with memory consolidation and imagination

The hippocampus is a major component of the brain of humans and other vertebrates. Humans and other mammals have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain. The hippocampus is part of the limbic system, and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory that enables navigation. The hippocampus is located under the cerebral cortex in the allocortex, and in primates it is in the medial temporal lobe. It contains two main interlocking parts: the hippocampus proper and the dentate gyrus.

Place cell Hippocampal cell that plays a role in localization

A place cell is a kind of pyramidal neuron within the hippocampus that becomes active when an animal enters a particular place in its environment, which is known as the place field. Place cells are thought, collectively, to act as a cognitive representation of a specific location in space, known as a cognitive map. Place cells work with other types of neurons in the hippocampus and surrounding regions to perform this kind of spatial processing. They have been found in a variety of animals, including rodents, bats, monkeys and humans.

Head direction (HD) cells are neurons found in a number of brain regions that increase their firing rates above baseline levels only when the animal's head points in a specific direction. They have been reported in rats, monkeys, mice, chinchillas and bats, but are thought to be common to all mammals, perhaps all vertebrates and perhaps even some invertebrates, and to underlie the "sense of direction". When the animal's head is facing in the cell's "preferred firing direction" these neurons fire at a steady rate, but firing decreases back to baseline rates as the animal's head turns away from the preferred direction.

Path integration method thought to be used by animals for dead reckoning; process by which animals update their estimates of position or heading

Path integration is the method thought to be used by animals for dead reckoning.

Grid cell type of neuron

A grid cell is a type of neuron within the entorhinal cortex that fires at regular intervals as an animal navigates an open area, allowing it to understand its position in space by storing and integrating information about location, distance, and direction. Grid cells have been found in many animals, including rats, mice, bats, monkeys, and humans.

Retrosplenial cortex Part of the brains cerebral cortex

The retrosplenial cortex (RSC) is a cortical area in the brain, located posteriorly and comprising Brodmann areas 29 and 30 .The region's name refers to its anatomical location immediately behind the splenium of the corpus callosum in primates, although in rodents it is located more towards the brain surface and is relatively larger. Its function is currently not well understood, but its location close to visual areas and also to the hippocampal spatial/memory system suggest it may have a role in mediating between perceptual and memory functions.

UCL Neuroscience is a research domain that encompasses the breadth of neuroscience research activity across University College London's (UCL) School of Life and Medical Sciences. The domain was established in January 2008, to coordinate neuroscience activity across the many UCL departments and institutes in which neuroscience research takes place. In 2014, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the UCL neuroscientist John O'Keefe. In two consecutive years 2017 and 2018, the Brain Prize, the world's most valuable prize for brain research at €1m, was awarded to UCL neuroscientists Peter Dayan, Ray Dolan, John Hardy, and Bart De Strooper.

Boundary cell

Boundary cells are neurons found in the hippocampal formation that respond to the presence of an environmental boundary at a particular distance and direction from an animal. The existence of cells with these firing characteristics were first predicted on the basis of properties of place cells. Boundary cells were subsequently discovered in several regions of the hippocampal formation: the subiculum, presubiculum and entorhinal cortex.

Edvard Moser Norwegian psychologist and neuroscientist

Edvard Ingjald Moser is a Norwegian professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. In 2005 he discovered grid cells in the brain's medial entorhinal cortex. Grid cells are specialized neurons that provide the brain with a coordinate system and a metric for space. In 2018 he discovered a neural network that expresses your sense of time in experiences and memories located in the brain's lateral entorhinal cortex He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014 with long-term collaborator May-Britt Moser and previous mentor John O'Keefe for their work identifying the brain's positioning system. The two main components of the brain's GPS are; grid cells and place cells, a specialized type of neuron that respond to specific locations in space. Together with May-Britt Moser he established the Moser research environment, which they lead.

May-Britt Moser Norwegian psychologist and neuroscientist

May-Britt Moser is a Norwegian psychologist and neuroscientist, who is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). She and her then-husband, Edvard Moser, shared half of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded for work concerning the grid cells in the entorhinal cortex, as well as several additional space-representing cell types in the same circuit that make up the positioning system in the brain. Together with Edvard Moser she established the Moser research environment at NTNU, which they lead. Since 2012 she heads the Centre for Neural Computation.

Topographical disorientation, also known as topographical agnosia and topographagnosia, is the inability to orient oneself in one's surroundings as a result of focal brain damage. This disability may result from the inability to make use of selective spatial information or to orient by means of specific cognitive strategies such as the ability to form a mental representation of the environment, also known as a cognitive map. It may be part of a syndrome known as visuospatial dysgnosia.

Daniela Schiller is a neuroscientist who leads the Schiller Lab for Affective Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She is best known for her work on memory reconsolidation, and on unlearning traumatic memories and addiction.

John OKeefe (neuroscientist) American British neuroscientist, 2014 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine

John O'Keefe, is an American-British neuroscientist and a professor at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour and the Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at University College London. He discovered place cells in the hippocampus, and that they show a specific kind of temporal coding in the form of theta phase precession. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014, together with May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser; he has received several other awards. He has worked at the University College London for his entire career, but also held a part-time chair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at the behest of his Norwegian collaborators, the Mosers.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore British neuroscientist

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London and co-director of the Wellcome Trust PhD Programme in Neuroscience at UCL

Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

The Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School is located in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, MA. It is consistently ranked as one of the top programs in Neurobiology and behavior in the world. The Department is part of the Basic Research Program at Harvard Medical School, with research pertaining to development of the nervous system, sensory neuroscience, neurophysiology, and behavior. The Department was founded by Stephen W. Kuffler in 1966, the first department dedicated to Neurobiology in the world. The mission of the Department is “ to understand the workings of the brain through basic research and to use that knowledge to work toward preventive and therapeutic methods that alleviate neurological diseases”.

Neil Burgess (neuroscientist) English Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience (born 1966)

Neil Burgess is a Professor of Cognitive neuroscience at University College London and a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow. He has made important contributions to understanding memory and spatial cognition by developing computational models relating behaviour to activity in biological neural networks.

Phase precession

Phase precession is a neurophysiological process in which the firing of action potentials by individual neurons is timed in relation to the phase of neural oscillations in the surrounding cells. In place cells, a type of neuron found in the hippocampal region of the brain, phase precession is believed to play a major role in the neural coding of information. John O'Keefe, who later shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that place cells help form a "map" of the body's position in space, co-discovered phase precession with Michael Recce in 1993.

Kenneth D. Harris is a neuroscientist at University College London. He is most known for his contributions to the understanding of the neural code used by vast populations of neurons. Among his discoveries is the finding that populations in sensory areas of the brain also code for body movements. Harris has contributed to the development of silicon probes and most recently of Neuropixels probes. He is a founding member of the International Brain Laboratory.


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  2. 1 2 katejeffery (21 November 2012). "About me". Corticalia. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
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  6. 1 2 Welsh 2011-08-08T18:52:02Z, Jennifer. "Brain Finding May Explain Disoriented Pilots, Astronauts". livescience.com. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  7. 1 2 "Kate Jeffery – Knowledge Quarter" . Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  8. "You live in a mostly 2D world, but the map in your brain charts the places you've been in 3D". massivesci.com. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  9. Webb, Jonathan (13 May 2015). "Donut-shaped 'compass' in fly brain". BBC News. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  10. "A Map to Attach Memories to". Losing Myself. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  11. "2018 – Art of Neuroscience" . Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  12. Simon, Johnny. "These beautiful works of art illustrate the brain's complexity". Quartz. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  13. BWW News Desk. "London's Theatre Re Explores Dementia Through Physical Theater In THE NATURE OF FORGETTING". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  14. "The Nature of Forgetting in UK tour". Entertainment Focus. 6 March 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  15. Lee, Jenny (17 May 2018). "The art of forgetting: Show explores memory, dementia and importance of the here and now". The Irish News. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  16. Bond, Michael. "The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feel". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  17. 1 2 Colgrave, Stephen (11 September 2019). "Beyond Brexit: 44 MPs Rebel to Save our Planet as Parliament is Prorogued". Byline Times. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  18. UCL (11 July 2019). "Extinction Rebellion lectures". UCL Events. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  19. 1 2 "UCL Minds Lunch Hour Lecture: The psychology of climate inaction – London | Events | The British Neuroscience Association". www.bna.org.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2020.