Beth Jefferies completed an MA in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and a PhD in Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol. She then moved to the University of Manchester in 2003, where she worked as an RCUK Research Fellow investigating disorders of semantic cognition and language following stroke and dementia. During these years, she started to use complementary neuroscientific methods (transcranial magnetic stimulation; functional neuroimaging) to investigate hypotheses about the neural basis of semantic cognition and language that emerged from the ongoing patient studies. In 2007, she moved to the Department of Psychology at the University of York.
Beth currently holds grants from BBSRC, ERC and Stroke Association which employ multiple methods to explore the neural basis of semantic cognition and conceptual-linguistic interactions, including the evolution of cortical processing over time (using magnetoencephalography). A new project is also using electrical stimulation (tDCS) to explore the potential for improved rehabilitation of acquired disorders of semantics and language, building on Beth’s previous work that examined the underlying cause of semantic deficits in different patient groups.
- MA in Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
- PhD University of Bristol
- RCUK Research Fellowship, University of Manchester
Chair of York Neuroimaging Centre Science Committee
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Neural basis of semantic memory
We are investigating the nature of the semantic impairment in patients with different aetiologies and brain lesions to examine the neural networks underpinning (i) conceptual knowledge of words, sounds and pictures and (ii) control processes that regulate semantic processing.
We also use fMRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in healthy participants to provide convergent evidence and to extend our patient findings. Our results argue for a revised model of semantic cognition, in which brain regions beyond left inferior frontal cortex contribute to semantic control.
Semantic binding in phonological processing
Our studies of patients with semantic dementia and healthy volunteers suggest that word meaning contributes to phonological coherence. When semantic binding is weak, phonological errors such as spoonerisms (e.g., “dart, hog” produced as “heart, dog”) become more frequent in verbal short-term memory and other tasks like paced reading that require rapid serial production. These findings help to constrain models of the interaction between phonology and semantics.
My lab includes:
- Nicola Savill (phonological binding and semantics)
- Giovanna Mollo (MEG and semantic processing)
- Hannah Thompson (neuropsychology and the semantic control network)
- Glyn Hallam (tDCS and aphasia rehabilitation)
- James Davey (fMRI of action representation and control)
- Catta Teige (MEG and semantic control)
- Upasana Nathaniel (neuropsychology)
- Charlotte Murphy (fMRI of semantic cognition)
- Stroke Association: Direct current stimulation and rehabilitation of comprehension deficits in stroke aphasia. £210k to E. Jefferies (PI) and M.A. Lambon Ralph. January 2013-December 2015.
- BBSRC project grant: When and where do you know what your know? fMRI-guided MEG and TMS studies of semantic cognition. £408k to E. Jefferies (PI), P. Cornelissen and A. Ellis. March 2012 – February 2015.
- European Research Council Starting grant: Bedding wells or wedding bells? Lexical and semantic influences on phoneme binding. EUR 691k to E. Jefferies and A. Ellis. January 2012-July 2016.
- Research into Ageing: Deficits of semantic cognition in stroke aphasia: Underlying causes and ameliorating factors. £69k: October 2009-2012.
- MRC programme grant: Pathfound: Revealing the neural basis of semantic memory and its breakdown in semantic dementia and stroke aphasia. £807k to M. A. Lambon Ralph, E. Jefferies (co-I), K. Patterson, T. T. Rogers & G. Parker, May 2006 – April 2011
- Wellcome project grant: The neural basis of semantic memory: A transcranial magnetic stimulation investigation. £141k to E. Jefferies, M.A. Lambon Ralph,S. Hamdy, J. Rothwell, March 2006 – March 2010
- RCUK research fellowship: Semantic cognition in the brain. £200k to E. Jefferies, July 2005 – July 2010 (left fellowship for faculty position September 2007)
- ESRC project grant: Lexical and semantic binding of phonology in verbal short-term memory. £46k to E. Jefferies, C. Frankish and M.A. Lambon Ralph, May 2005 – April 2007
Available PhD research projects
I am keen to hear from potential PhD students interested in the neural basis of semantic memory, language and verbal working memory, and who wish to undertake neuropsychological, neuroimaging and/or TMS studies.
- Charlotte Murphy (2013-current)
- Upasana Nathaniel (2013-current)
- Catta Teige (2011-2014)
- James Davey (2011-2014)
Previous PhD students
- Krist Noonan (2006-2009) Now a research fellow at the Research Institute for the Care of Older People, Bath
- Richard Binney (2006-2009) Now a postdoc at the University of Manchester
- Maya Visser (2006-2009) Now a postdoc in Barcelona
- Faye Corbett (2005-2009) Now undertaking a professional doctorate in Clinical Psychology
- Paul Hoffman (2005-2008) Now a postdoc at the University of Manchester
- Hannah Thompson (2009-2012) Now a postdoc at the University of York
- Katya Krieger-Redwood (2009-2012)
- Azizah Almaghyuli (2009-2013)
See York Research Database.
- Experimental Psychology Society
- British Neuropsychological Society (member of the executive committee)
Honours and awards
Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology (2004)
- Elizabeth Warrington Prize
British Neuropsychological Society (2008)
Federation of European Societies of Neuropsychology (2010)
Durham (BSc in Psychology)
Leeds (MSc in Memory and its Disorders)