Memory consolidation and forgetting in natural and artificial neural circuits

Apply for a PhD studentship at the Neuroscience Institute.

About the project

What should intelligent systems do with learned information? Biological brains have evolved to retain important information as consolidated memories, while forgetting unimportant or obsolete memories. In contrast, artificial neural networks often undergo so-called ‘catastrophic forgetting’ when learning new information rather than selectively erasing irrelevant memories. Solutions to this engineering problem may find inspiration in how biological brains consolidate and forget memories.

Fruit flies learn to associate specific odours with rewards or punishments, but these memories fade over time, like human memories. Recent work indicates that forgetting in flies is not simply passive decay; rather, both forgetting and consolidation are active processes requiring persistent spontaneous neural activity in memory-encoding neurons after learning.

We will test whether such spontaneous activity can provide the computational basis for regulating memory consolidation and forgetting. First, we will experimentally measure this post-learning spontaneous activity and investigate the circuit mechanisms that regulate it. Second, we will computationally model alternative strategies for post-learning consolidation and forgetting in the fly brain, some derived from our experimental results, to test which, if any, are best able to flexibly retain and forget learned associations. Our results may suggest new strategies for flexible learning for artificial intelligence.


Andrew Lin (main supervisor), Eleni Vasilaki

Entry requirements

A first or upper second class honours degree or significant research experience.


Andrew Lin
0114 222 3643

How to apply

You can apply using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. For more on applying see our applying essentials page.

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