Kate Jeffery

Kathryn Jane Jeffery is a neuroscientist from New Zealand. She is a professor of behavioural neuroscience at University College London. She studies how the brain encodes three-dimensional space and its role in navigation.

Early life and career

Jeffery graduated with a degree of MB ChB from the University of Otago in 1985. After working as a house officer, she returned to the University of Otago to complete a master's degree in 1989 under the supervision of Cliff Abraham. She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 1993 under the supervision of Richard Morris. During this time she worked in the same lab as May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser. She went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher with John O'Keefe, who won the 2014 Nobel Prize for his work on place cells, at University College London. Jeffery correctly predicted he would win the Nobel Prize in a tweet.

Jeffery stayed at University College London to become a lecturer and later a professor. Here, she founded the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, of which she is also director.


Jeffery is particularly interested in the representation of 3D space in our brain. Her lab reported in 2011 that place cells and grid cells, special types of cells in the brain that are important for navigation, predominantly represent 3D space as a horizontal plane. However, a later study from her lab showed that place cells can indeed represent 3D place.

Jeffery also studies head direction cells, cells in the brain that represent the direction an animal is facing.

Science and art

Jeffery has been involved in a number of projects linking neuroscience and art. She collaborated on the piece Spin Glass with Jenny Walsh and Jeremy Keenan, which represents the head direction network in the brain of an animal. She consulted on the Off-Broadway play The Nature of Forgetting, about how the brain represents memory.

Jeffery is also interested in the link between architecture and the representation of location in the brain. She presented at the Conscious Cities conferences on how the design of environments affects the sense of direction.

Environmental activism

Jeffery is a member of Extinction Rebellion, a climate emergency group. She has spoken at Extinction Rebellion events on the science behind the climate emergency.


Jeffery is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation. She is also a Vice-President for the Royal Institute of Navigation.

Selected publications

  • Casali, Giulio; Bush, Daniel; Jeffery, Kate (5 March 2019). "Altered neural odometry in the vertical dimension". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (10): 4631–4636. doi:10.1073/pnas.1811867116. ISSN 0027-8424. PMID 30770450.
  • Hayman, Robin; Verriotis, Madeleine A.; Jovalekic, Aleksandar; Fenton, André A.; Jeffery, Kathryn J. (2011). "Anisotropic encoding of three-dimensional space by place cells and grid cells". Nature Neuroscience. 14 (9): 1182–1188. doi:10.1038/nn.2892. ISSN 1546-1726.
  • Barry, Caswell; Hayman, Robin; Burgess, Neil; Jeffery, Kathryn J. (2007). "Experience-dependent rescaling of entorhinal grids". Nature Neuroscience. 10 (6): 682–684. doi:10.1038/nn1905. ISSN 1546-1726.
  • Anderson, Michael I.; Jeffery, Kathryn J. (1 October 2003). "Heterogeneous Modulation of Place Cell Firing by Changes in Context". Journal of Neuroscience. 23 (26): 8827–8835. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.23-26-08827.2003. ISSN 0270-6474. PMID 14523083.
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