Why We Remember and Why We Forget


Our memories make us who we are. Episodic memory allows humans to mentally time travel, i.e. to re-live past events and anticipate future events.

This course will give students an in-depth understanding of the central concepts, neurocognitive theories, and current research in episodic memory and its applications.

The module will first give an overview of cognitive memory theory and the experimental approaches used to study remembering and forgetting.  

Later lectures will discuss the neural mechanisms underlying episodic memory, including state-of-the-art imaging and electrophysiological studies in healthy humans and non-human animals.

Applied topics include:

  • Memory and the ageing brain
  • Memory disorders
  • The science behind superior memory
  • Eyewitness testimony

In the practical classes, students will gain hands-on experience in running a memory experiment.

Topics covered:

  • What is episodic memory?
  • Why do we forget?  Incidental and voluntary forgetting
  • How the brain encodes information into memory
  • How the brain retrieves information from memory
  • Sleep and the neural mechanisms of memory consolidation
  • Memory loss and amnesia
  • Memory, ageing and dementia
  • Eyewitness testimony: from laboratory to courtroom
  • Superior memory performers and strategies to improve memory


  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Self-directed study
  • Tutorial drop-in sessions


  • Coursework (30%): Written research report
  • Exam (70%): 7 out of 10 short answer questions