Professor Adam Zeman
Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Neurology
Prof. Zeman trained in Medicine at Oxford University Medical School, after a first degree in Philosophy and Psychology, and later in Neurology in Oxford, at The National Hospital for Neurology in Queen Square, London and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. He moved to Edinburgh in 1996, as a Consultant and Senior Lecturer (later Reader) in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and to the Peninsula Medical School (now University of Exeter Medical School) in September 2005 as Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Neurology. His specialised clinical work is in cognitive and behavioural neurology, including neurological disorders of sleep.
His main research interests are disorders of visual imagery and forms of amnesia occurring in epilepsy. He has an active background interest in the science and philosophy of consciousness, publishing a wide-ranging review of the field in Brain (2001; 124:1263-1289) and an accessible introduction to the subject for a general readership (Consciousness: a user’s guide, Yale University Press, 2002). In 2008 he published an introduction to neurology for the general reader, A Portrait of the Brain (Yale UP), and in 2012, Epilepsy and Memory (OUP) with Narinder Kapur and Marilyn Jones-Gotman.
From 2007-2010 he was Chairman of the British Neuropsychiatry Association. He launched and continues to direct its training course in neuropsychiatry.
Broad research specialisms
- Cognitive Neurology, especially:
- memory disorders associated with epilepsy, including Transient Epileptic Amnesia, accelerated long-term forgetting and autobiographical amnesia
- disorders of visual imagery
- Neurological disorders of sleep
- Case studies in neuropsychiatry
- Conceptual issues in the relationship between neurology and psychiatry, mind and brain
BMBCh MA DM FRCP
- Visual imagery: experience, behaviour, neuroscience. The vividness of visual imagery varies greatly between individuals, and can be affected by neurological and psychiatric disorders. With colleagues in Edinburgh, he coined the term ‘aphantasia’ in 2015 to describe the absence of a mind’s eye. Extensive resulting publicity has led to many thousands of contacts, allowing a large database of individuals with aphantasia to be developed and its opposite hyperphantasia. He is currently investigating their neuropsychological associations and neural basis.
- Transient Epileptic Amnesia: temporal lobe epilepsy can give rise to episodes of transient amnesia, often occurring on waking and frequently associated with ‘non-standard’ forms of memory impairment: autobiographical amnesia, topographical amnesia and accelerated long term forgetting. His team has investigated these through the TIME project since 2003.
- Dementia: epilepsy, neuropsychology, brain imaging. His NHS Cognitive Disorders Clinic is linked to the Devon Memory Clinic service. As a counterpart to the TIME study, which investigates memory impairment occurring in epilepsy, he has recently launched a study investigating epilepsy occurring in dementia with Dr John Baker, a Clinical Fellow funded by the Alzheimer Society, and colleagues in the Memory Clinic Service (the PRESIDE study). He is collaborating with Prof Nick Fox in London and Dr Alicia Smith in Plymouth to test the hypothesis that accelerated long-term forgetting may be an early feature in Alzheimer’s disease. Following a recent audit study showing that valuable diagnostic information is often omitted from radiological reports on patients with dementia, He is collaborating in a service improvement project with Dr William Mukonoweshuro in Plymouth.
- Neurological sleep disorders: these disorders, which include causes of excessive sleepiness such as narcolepsy, parasomnias, such as sleep-walking and chronic insomnia have been neglected in British medical education and by clinical services. He is collaborating in a nationwide study of the provision of sleep education and has recently completed an audit of the work of his Sleep Disorders Clinic. This field of research is wide open to enthusiastic youngsters – please contact him!
- Single cases in neuropsychiatry: although these belong to an ancient tradition, single case reports remain powerful tools in the exploration of fascinating areas of cognitive neuroscience. His recent papers of the neural correlates of Cotard’s syndrome and aphantasia, and on psychogenic déjà vu illustrate their potential.
- Brain and mind: all these topics speak to the fundamental question of the relationship between brain and mind, the ‘problem of consciousness’. They speak also to the corresponding relationship between neurology, the medical specialty involved in caring for disorder of the brain, and psychiatry, the specialty involved in caring for disorders of the mind. He has written on these topics in the past and will continue to explore them further.
- The Eye’s Mind: This project investigates visual imagination, in particular variations in the vividness of visual imagery and their neural basis.
- The TIME project (The Impairment of Memory in Epilepsy): This project focuses on Transient Epileptic Amnesia and the associated phenomena of accelerated long-term forgetting and autobiographical amnesia.
- The prevalence and clinical features of epilepsy in dementia and mild cognitive impairment – collaboration with the Devon Memory clinics: the PrESiDe Study coordinated by Dr John Baker
- Accelerated Forgetting in pre-symptomatic familial Alzheimer’s disease – collaboration with Prof Nick Fox, Institute of Neurology, London (see Lancet Neurology 2018)
- Accelerated Forgetting in Alzheimer’s disease and subjective memory complaints: Assessing rate of forgetting using the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination – collaboration with Dr Alicia Smith and Dr Rupert Noad, Plymouth.
- Establishing normative values for long-term forgetting – collaboration with Dr Chris Butler, Oxford
- Enhancing the accuracy of the reporting of dementia scans: a service improvement study – collaboration with Dr William Mukonoweshuro (Plymouth).
- Reclaiming words in everyday life: App based word retraining for people with Semantic Dementia – collaboration with Dr Sharon Savage (Exeter).
- Cognition and behaviour in adult iDEND – collaboration with Prof Andrew Hattersley, Exeter.
- Effects of Methylphenidate on Attention and Executive Function (2015-) – collaboration with Dr Chris Dodds, Psychology, Exeter.
- Sleep education in the UK – collaboration with Ms Stephanie Romiszewski (Exeter), Dr Greg Stores (Oxford), Dr Michelle Miller (Warwick).
- AHRC £99,983 (2018) Extreme Imagination in Mind, Brain and Culture (Impact and Engagement Award). Principle applicant.
- Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre £450,000 (2016-19) Multi-disciplinary study of dysfunctional brain networks in dementia. Co-investigator and supervisor of clinical training fellow.
- Dunhill Medical Trust £179,343 (2014-2017) Transient Epileptic Amnesia: causation, prognosis and the benefits of treatment.
- Royal Devon and Exeter Trust small grant award £7,766 (2015-16) Sleep education in the medical profession: where are we now? Chief investigator and supervisor of research fellow.
- Institutional Strategic Support Fund, Centre for Biomedical Modelling and Analysis, Exeter £6,314 (2015-2016) Improving diagnostic accuracy in Transient Epileptic Amnesia using computational models of EEG. Principle applicant.
- Art and Humanities Research Council £80,000 (2014-2016) The eye’s mind – a study of the neural basis of visual imagination and its roles in culture.
External Engagement and Impact
Member of Medical Research Council Neuroscience and Mental Health Board
Associate Fellow of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Sydney
Affiliate faculty member of the Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience at Glasgow University
Director of British Neuropsychiatry Association
Advisory Board Epilepsy, Brain and Mind
Editorial Board Epilepsy and Behaviour
Keynote speaker Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, November 2016
Visiting Professor of Neurology, New Zealand Neurological Association, November 2015
Sidney Watson Smith Memorial Lecture, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 4.10.13
J E Wallace Wallin Memorial lecture, Augustana College, Rock Island, USA 11.10.12.
‘Leaders in the Field Presentation’, American Neurological Association meeting, Boston, 9.10.2012.
Department of Epileptology, Bonn, 15.12.11.
Killam Lecture, Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal, 8.3.11
Widespread media coverage of the description of ‘aphantasia’ (New York Times, Le Monde, New Scientist, BBC etc.) leading to direct contact from around 10,000 participants.
Extensive recent coverage of papers on Cotard’s Syndrome, and brain activation by poetry and prose.
Articles on TIME project work in The Times, New Scientist
Interviews on All in the Mind.
- PhD supervision
- Supervision of neurologists in training
- Supervision of intercalating Psychology students and student interns
- Medical student teaching in clinic and seminars
- Contributions to DclinPsy and Psychology MSc courses
- Organiser: British Neuropsychiatry Association Training Weekend in Neuropsychiatry
- External teaching and lecturing