Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience

Research by Professor Edmund T. Rolls

Aims of Research

The aims of the research are to provide information fundamental to understanding how the brain works, and thus to understanding brain dysfunction.

The research focuses on the brain mechanisms of perception, memory, emotion and feeding, and thus of perceptual, memory, emotional, appetite and mental disorders including depression.

The research builds on the following complementary approaches in order to investigate how the brain actually works:

  • biologically realistic computational neuronal network models that build on
  • knowledge of neuronal activity in different brain areas, to show what is represented, and how it is represented
  • neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies in humans

Research Topics


Profile of Edmund Rolls

Cerebral Cortex

Emotion Explained


The Noisy Brain

Memory, Attention, and Decision-Making

The research topics investigated include:

1) The processing of taste and olfactory information by the brain.

2) The processing of visual information about objects by the brain.

3) A theory and model of how the visual system performs invariant visual object recognition.

4) A theory of emotion and motivation, and analysis of the operation of the brain systems including the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, which are involved in emotion.

5) The application of understanding brain mechanisms of emotion and emotion-related learning to the understanding and rehabilitation of patients with damage to the inferior parts of the frontal lobes.

6) The operation of the brain systems, including the hypothalamus, orbitofrontal cortex, and amygdala, involved in the control of food and water intake.

7) Where and how sensory signals are decoded into reward signals in the brain, and the neural mechanisms that underlie reward.

8) The neural mechanisms that underlie memory in the brain. The operation of key structures in the brain in memory, including the hippocampus, orbitofrontal cortex, and amygdala.

9) A full theoretical treatment of how the hippocampus could store episodic memories, and how they could be recalled to the neocortex to thus contribute to the formation of long-term memories.

10) The information which reaches the striatum from the neocortex, and the implications of this for understanding the operation of the basal ganglia.

11) How information is encoded by the firing of neurons in many different brain systems.

12) The ways in which many parts of the cerebral cortex may actually work, by combining neurophysiological, neuroanatomical, connectivity, and biologically plausible neuronal network approaches.  Biologically plausible computation in the brain compared with that in digital computers and used in artificial intelligence.

13) The brain mechanisms of attention and decision-making.

14) The neural bases of mental disorders including depression, schizophrenia and autism, with implications for treatment. This builds on the research described above, and adds new large-scale analyses of neuroimaging data from patients and controls.

15) Brain process involved in consciousness, and the relation between the brain and the mind.

16) Aesthetics and the brain.

Many of these advances are summarized in nine books:

Brain Computations and Connectivity by E.T.Rolls, 2023, Oxford University Press;

Brain Computations: What and How by E.T.Rolls, 2021, Oxford University Press;

The Orbitofrontal Cortex by E.T.Rolls, 2019, Oxford University Press;

The Brain, Emotion, and Depression by E.T.Rolls, 2018, Oxford University Press;

Cerebral Cortex: Principles of Operation by E.T.Rolls, 2016, Oxford University Press;

Emotion and Decision-Making Explained by E.T.Rolls, 2014, Oxford University Press;

The Noisy Brain: Stochastic Dynamics as a Principle of Brain Function by E.T.Rolls and G.Deco, 2010, Oxford University Press;

Computational Neuroscience of Vision by E.T.Rolls and G.Deco, 2002, Oxford University Press;

Neural Networks and Brain Function by E.T.Rolls and A.Treves, 1998, Oxford University Press;

and are described in the papers shown in the List of Publications.

17) Accessible communication of neuroscience.

Edmund Rolls has written a book that is intended to consider some of the implications of modern research in neuroscience in part to an audience beyond neuroscience:

Neuroculture: On the Implications of Brain Science by E.T.Rolls, 2012. Oxford University Press. Neuroculture.pdf.

Edmund Rolls has written a book intended to explain current understanding of the brain, emotion, and depression with a new type of format, with sections coloured blue for nonspecialists who may be interested to know for example about some of the bases and treatments for depression:

The Brain, Emotion, and Depression by E.T.Rolls (2018) Oxford University Press.

Citations and impact. Edmund Rolls was ranked in 2019 as the 18th most cited scientist in the UK, and the 150th most cited scientist in the world out of 6,880,389 in any field of science who have published more than 5 papers across every scientific field (i.e. in the top 0.002%) (composite indicator c, Ioannidis et al 2019 A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field. PLoS Biol 17(8): e3000384). Edmund Rolls is also the 20th most cited neuroscientist in the world, and 3rd in the UK (composite indicator c for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Ioannidis et al 2019).

In 2021, Edmund Rolls was ranked by Research.com as the top 20th neuroscientist in the world, and 6th in the UK, based on citations.