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Thinking outside the box: A healthy memory error in our scene representations SSS30

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: SSS30

Boundary extension is a fault in memory that happens to healthy people. When healthy people are asked to draw a scene from memory, they typically draw more background than they originally saw. Fascinatingly, patients with amnesia do this less frequently, so they are in fact more accurate than healthy people when remembering the borders of scenes.

This is important because it suggests that common mechanisms affect 1) how people remember their past and 2) their current scene perception. Mechanisms that help healthy people remember their past may cause this boundary error. A failure in these mechanisms may contribute to why patients with amnesia do not remember their past but accurately remember scene boundaries.

Despite being an error, boundary extension is considered adaptive. Constructing representations of scenes that extend beyond their borders means that we are filling in the gaps beyond what we see. A snapshot is automatically integrated into a wider context, as we dynamically navigate throughout our complex visual environment. We transport ourselves at speed, for instance whilst we are driving though a city. We create mental maps in order to simulate our environment and create a coherent visual world.

The aim of this project is to investigate the processes that contribute to the boundary extension phenomenon in healthy people. The project will ask: Does a lack of efficient separation of patterns contribute to this boundary extension error, or does the reliance on the completion of patterns give us boundary extension? Recent work provides a behavioural task to assess pattern completion in humans. The project will examine individual differences in performance on this task in relation to the boundary extension phenomenon, and how this links to performance on memory tasks. This project involves conducting behavioural laboratory-based computer tasks (including virtual reality, VR) with healthy human participants. The project will then extend and compare the findings in older adult age groups and clinical populations with memory deficits in ageing, such as those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Understanding these mechanisms will contribute to our understanding of healthy ageing and what goes wrong with our memory systems as we age, and in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease.

What experience do I need?

  • Keen interest in memory and/or perception
  • Good statistical knowledge
  • Organisational skills.

What skills will I learn?

  • Creating computer-based tasks
  • Data visualisation and analysis
  • Neuropsychological methods

What careers are related to this project?

  • Research scientist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Data scientist

Supervisory team

  • Dr Angharad Williams (contact for further information:
  • Dr Christina Howard
  • Professor Thom Baguley
  • Additional advisor (expert in Cognitive Ageing): Dr Stephen Badham

School strategic research priority

This project aligns with the  Health and Wellbeing University research theme. It also aligns with the Brain, Behaviour and Cognition group and the Centre for Behavioural Research Methods.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418