The mind and brain are two sides of the same coin, but the construction of a bridge between the two sides has only recently begun. Cognitive neuroscience is the manifestation of this project, and in this spirit Professor Emeritus Tim Shallice founded Europe's first Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in 1996, as part of the University College London. The ICN started off as a small “virtual" institute for several years, and only finished refurbishing its current home, Alexandra House, years later. In the summer of 1998, Alexandra House was home to both the ICN and the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, and only since February last year has the Gatsby unit left to allow the ICN full occupancy of the building. Thus in the past two decades Alexandra House has been the home of world-leading research on the mind and brain, both experimentally and computationally.
The ICN started off small, with about forty members and a dedicated support team of four, but continuously dedicated itself to establishing the exciting field of Cognitive Neuroscience. To keep up with the rapid developments and nurture interaction, the ICN hosted weekly seminars on Monday afternoons, where distinguished speakers can present and discuss their research, a tradition that still continues to this day. Additionally the ICN hosted more private lunch time talks on Fridays, where members enjoyed a short presentation and custom sandwiches. This was in a time where members had the luxury of time that we no longer can enjoy, but continue the tradition in a more British spirit during tea-time talks on Thursdays.
The institute could not have expanded so rapidly and grown into an academic institute of world-class excellence without excellent directors and group leaders guiding it throughout the years. Professor Shallice acted both as founding director as well as head of the Executive Functions group, and relinquished his position as the director of the ICN in 2004 to the late Professor Jon Driver, group leader of the Attention group, who led the ICN as the director until September 2009. Following in his footsteps until 2014 was Professor Geraint Rees, head of the Awareness group. The ICN’s current director is Professor Neil Burgess, head of the space and memory lab. A full list of ICN’s research group leaders can be found here.
Throughout the years, the ICN has housed many group leaders and researchers that now established themselves as world authorities in their respective fields, attracting passionate students from all around the world to enjoy the unique opportunity to pursue its graduate programs or PhD’s. Currently the ICN is home to a small but passionate diversity of students, researchers, and staff members. With almost half of them being students - both MSc/MRes and PhD - ICN is a strongly youth-driven institute, which perhaps contributes to its continuing excellence in this continuously evolving field.