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Research Portfolio


How to use fMRI to find where memories are processed in the brain


Grant round winners 2008

grant amount:

£85,681.77 over 14 months

lead investigator:

Professor Mark Richardson



King’s College London


There is currently a lot of interest worldwide into how to use brain scans to locate memory function in the brain, prior to surgery for temporal lobe epilepsy. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been particularly investigated. In memory fMRI testing, the person lies in the MRI scanner while a doctor asks them to remember things, such as pictures, faces, words, or a particular route through streets near their home. The scanner measures blood flow and oxygen consumption in the brain to see which parts are working during each question.

Three different groups of researchers, from Philadelphia (USA), Bielefeld (Germany) and Professor Mark Richardson‘s group at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, have carried out preliminary studies on memory fMRI. However each group used different procedures, with different memory tests, and each produced slightly different results. So which method is the most reliable?

Epilepsy Research UK has awarded Professor Richardson £85,681.77 over 14 months to compare and contrast the three different procedures. The study will include 18 people with temporal lobe epilepsy. Each person will be tested with all three protocols on the same day, and will be retested, again with all three procedures, 2 months and then 4 months later.

This will show how reliable each procedure is (for example, whether they can detect the same features in the same person after a two-month gap; or whether two different protocols can identify the same features in the same person). This study, called Memory fMRI as a clinical tool: establishing reliability, is the first step towards a formal trial of the best method to evaluate it for routine use in hospitals.

This is one of nine grants made by Epilepsy Research UK in 2008. Read about the other grants from 2008 here

The Study