Bruce L. McNaughton


Principal Investigator, Distinguished Professor

CONTACT, Ph: 949-824-9642
Office: 103 Bonney Research Lab
Lab: 105 Qureshey Research Lab


Dr. McNaughton's research focuses on the molecular, cellular and brain system mechanisms of memory and memory disorders associated with aging and brain damage. His early career concentrated on the biophysics of long-term synaptic potentiation and the role of this process in associative information storage. This work was highlighted by the first demonstration that "Hebbian" principles of association, which form the basis of all neural network learning algorithms, are embodied in the actual dynamics of experience dependent synaptic plasticity. In the last 15 years, Dr. McNaughton has been at the forefront of development of methods to study the large-scale interactions of neurons in the intact brain during the encoding, storage, recall and consolidation of memory. Methods developed in his laboratory now make it possible to record from several hundred cortical neurons during learning experiments in animals, providing an unprecedented window on how neurons cooperate during cognitive processing.These methods are also being directed towards the development of neuroprosthetic systems that will use direct brain recording to control muscle activity in patients with spinal injury. At the other end of the scientific spectrum, Dr. McNaughton is a key member of an interdisciplinary team involved in the development of immediate-early gene activation markers of neural activity in the brain. This method permits visualization of the recent history of activity in the brain at cellular resolution, thus allowing identification of not only which areas of the brain are activated during cognitive processing, but which specific neurons. This method will provide an important complement to non-invasive, but lower resolution, functional neuroimaging studies using magnetic resonance.


The main focus of his research is the physiological and computational basis of cognition, with particular focus on memory and memory disorders, and the dynamic interactions among neuronal populations and synaptic plasticity mechanisms that underlie these phenomena. Bruce has made significant contributions to the understanding of central synaptic plasticity mechanisms, spatial information processing in the hippocampal formation and cortex, cortico-hippocampal interactions and memory consolidation, and the aging of the nervous system. His current activities focus on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying spatial orientation ('head-direction', 'place', and 'grid' cells in the hippocampal formation and associated networks), the reactivation of memory traces in the cortex during sleep following learning and the role of this process in memory consolidation, and the self organization of synaptic networks during early post-natal development of the temporal lobe memory system. Throughout his career he has been involved in the development and application of new conceptual approaches and innovative technologies to his research questions.


Ph.D. (Cum Laude) Psychology, Dalhousie University

M.Sc. Biology, Carleton University

B.Sc. (Honours, First Class) Biology, Carleton University