Dr. Bruce McNaughton

Bruce McNaughton
Phone: (403) 394-3909
e-mail: bruce.mcnaughton@uleth.ca
Office: EP 1242
Lab: EP 1213

Research Interests

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.

Bruce McNaughton is also a principal investigator at the University of California, Irvine.


  • Ph.D. (Cum Laude) Psychology, Dalhousie University.
  • M.Sc. Biology, Carleton University.
  • B.Sc. (Honours, First Class) Biology, Carleton University.

Recent Publications

  1. Chemla, S., Witharana, W. K., & McNaughton, B. L. Spatiotemporal after-effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on sensory-evoked activity in rat S1: A pilot VSDI study. Curr Neurobiol 2016, 7(2): 30-35.
  2. Valdes, J. L., McNaughton, B.L., Fellous, J.M. (2015). Off-Line Reactivation of Experience-Dependent Neuronal Firing Patterns in the Rat Ventral Tegmental Area. Journal of Neurophysiology. DOI: 10.1152/jn.00758.2014
  3. Wilber, A., Clark, B.J., Demecha, A.J., Mesina, L., Vos, J.M., and McNaughton, B.L. (2015). Cortical connectivity maps reveal anatomically distinct areas in the parietal cortex of the rat. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 8(146):1-15. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2014.00146.
  4. Ormond, J., and McNaughton, B.L. (2015). Place field expansion after focal MEC inactivations is consistent with loss of Fourier components and path-integrator gain reduction. PNAS, Tracking #: 2014-21963R.
  5. Steenland, H.W., and McNaughton, B.L. Chapter 2: Silicon probe techniques for large-scale multiunit recording, In Analysis and Modeling of Coordinated Multi-neuronal Activity, Springer Series in Computational Neuroscience, Springer Publishing, (2014)
  6. Steenland, H.W. and McNaughton, B.L. Chapter 1: Techniques for large scale multiunit recording, In Analysis and Modeling of Coordinated Multi-neuronal Activity, Springer Series in Computational Neuroscience, Springer Publishing, (2014).
  7. Wilber, A.A., Clark, B.J., Forster, T.C., Tatsuno, M., McNaughton, B.L. (2014). Interaction of egocentric and world-centered reference frames in the rat posterior parietal cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(16):5431-5446.
  8. Schwindel, C.D., Ali, K., McNaughton, B.L., Tatsuno, M. (2014). Long-term recordings improve the detection of weak excitatory–excitatory connections in rat prefrontal cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(16):5454-5467.
  9. Bermudez Contreras, E., Gomez Palacio Schjetnan, A., Muhammad, A., Bartho, P., McNaughton, B.L., Kolb, B., Gruber, A., Luczak, A.* (2013). Formation and reverberation of sequential neural activity patterns evoked by sensory stimulation is enhanced during cortical desynchronization. Neuron, 79(3):555-566.
  10. Montes-Rodríguez, C.J., Lapointe, V., Trivedi, V., Lu, Q., Demchuk, A.M., McNaughton, B.L. (2013). Postnatal development of Homer1a in the rat hippocampus. Hippocampus. 2013 Jun 3.
  11. Nieuwenhuis, I.L.C., Takashima, A., Oostenveld, R., McNaughton, B.L., Fernández, G., and Jensen, O. (2012). The Neocortical Network Representing Associative Memory Reorganizes with Time in a Process Engaging the Anterior Temporal Lobe. Cerebral Cortex, 22(11):2622-33.
  12. Euston, D.R., Gruber, A.J., McNaughton, B.L. (2012). “The Role of Medial Prefrontal Cortex in memory and decision making”. Neuron, 76 (6), 1057-1070.
  13. Navratilova Z, Hoang LT, Schwindel CD, Tatsuno M and McNaughton BL (2012). Experience-dependent firing rate remapping generates directional selectivity in hippocampal place cells. Front. Neural Circuits 6:6. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2012.00006
  14. Navratilova, Z., Giocomo, L.M., Fellous, J.M., Hasselmo, M.E., and McNaughton, B.L. (2011). Phase precession and variable spatial scaling in a periodic attractor map model of medial entorhinal grid cells with realistic after-spike dynamics. Hippocampus. 2011 Apr 11. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20939.
  15. McNaughton, B.L. (2010) Cortical hierarchies, sleep, and the extraction of knowledge from memory. Artificial Intelligence, 174:205-214.
  16. Alme C.B., Buzzetti R.A., Marrone D.F., Leutgeb J.K., Chawla M.K., Schaner M.J., Bohanick J.D., Khoboko T., Leutgeb S., Moser E.I., Moser M.-B., McNaughton B.L. and Barnes C.A. (2010) Hippocampal Granule Cells Opt for Early Retirement. Hippocampus, 20:1109-1123.
  17. Colgin L.L., Leutgeb S., Jezek K., Leutgeb J.K., Moser E.I., McNaughton B.L., Moser, M-B (2010) Attractor-Map Versus Autoassociation Based Attractor Dynamics in the Hippocampal Network. J. Neurophysiology, The Journal of Neurophysiol, 104:35-50.
  18. Johnson L.A., Euston D.R., Tatsuno M., McNaughton, B.L., (2010) “Stored-trace reactivation in rat prefrontal cortex is correlated with down-to-up state fluctuation density”, The Journal of Neuroscience, 30:2650-2661.
  19. Lansink, C.S., Golstein, P.M., Lankelma, J.V., McNaughton, B.L., and Pennartz, C.M.A. (2009) Hippocampus leads ventral striatum in replay of place-reward information. PLOS Biology, 7:1-11.
  20. Takehara-Nishiuchi, K. & McNaughton, B.L. (2008) Spontaneous changes in neocortical code for associative memory during consolidation. Science 322:960-963
  21. Cowen, S.L. and McNaughton, B.L. (2007) Selective delay activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the rat: Contribution of sensorimotor information and contingency. Journal of Neurophysiology, 98:303-316.
  22. Marrone, D.F., Schaner, M.J., McNaughton, B.L., Worley, P.F., and Barnes, C.A. (2008) Immediate-early gene expression at rest recapitulates recent experience. The Journal of Neuroscience, 28:1030-1033.
  23. McNaughton, B.L., Battaglia, F.P., Jensen, O., Moser, E.I., and Moser, M-B. (2006) Path-integration and the neural basis of the ‘cognitive map’. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7:663:678.
  24. Sargolini, F., Fyhn, M., Hafting, T., McNaughton, B.L., Witter, M.P., Moser, M-B. and Moser, E.I. (2006) Conjunctive representation of position, direction and velocity in entorhinal cortex. Science, 312:758-762.