Fiona McNab



Fiona McNab’s PhD involved studies of language processing using MEG at the Open University and Aston University. She then completed a short postdoc at Exeter University, investigating semantic processing with behavioural testing and fMRI. In 2005 she moved to Sweden for a second postdoc at the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm. During this period she investigated working memory and attention, providing empirical support for a role for the basal ganglia in the control of access to working memory and identification of changes in the dopamine system related to working memory training. At The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, with a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship, she designed the working memory game in the large-scale smartphone study; “The Great Brain Experiment”, leading to studies of different types of distraction in younger adults as well as in healthy ageing. In 2013 she moved to Birmingham University, where she conducted fMRI and behavioural studies of attention and working memory, and behavioural studies of the effects of competition on working memory. 

Fiona currently holds a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship and an ESRC Seminar Series grant on “Cognitive intervention across the lifespan”.


  • BSc (Dual Hons), Psychology and Physics, Keele University, UK, 1997-2000
  • PhD, The Open University / Aston University, UK, 2000-2004
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Exeter University, UK, 2004-2005
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Karolinska Institute, Sweden, 2005-2010
  • Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow, The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL / Birmingham University / York University, 2010 – present. 



Working memory, distraction and healthy ageing

Using fMRI and behavioural studies I am investigating what limits working memory, how different types of distractors are successfully ignored and how working memory changes with healthy aging, as well as in certain patient groups.

Motor control and working memory

In collaboration with Joseph Galea (University of Birmingham), I am investigating the association between working memory and motor control.


  • Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship 2010 – present
  • ESRC Seminar Series “Cognitive intervention across the lifespan”, 2015-present


  • John Duncan (Cambridge University)
  • Joseph Galea (University of Birmingham)
  • Ned Jenkinson (University of Birmingham)
  • Carmel Mevorach (University of Birmingham)
  • Kia Nobre (Oxford University)
  • Lilach Shalev (Tel Aviv University)
  • Kim Shapiro (University of Birmingham)



Selected publications

  • McNab, F., Zeidman, P., Rutledge, R.B., Smittenaar, P., Brown, H.R., Adams, R.A. & Dolan, R.J. (2015) Age-related changes in working memory and the ability to ignore distraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112 (20): 6515-6518
  • McNab, F. & Dolan, R.J. (2014) Dissociating distractor-filtering at encoding and during maintenance. Journal of Experimental Psycholgy: Human Perception and Performance, 40(3): 960-967 
  • McNab, F., Varrone, A., Farde, L., Jucaite, A., Bystritska, P. Forssberg, H., & Klingberg, T. (2009) Changes in cortical D1 receptor binding associated with training-induced changes in working memory capacity. Science, 323, 800-802
  • McNab, F. & Klingberg, T. (2008) Prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia control access to working memory. Nature Neuroscience, 11(1): 103-107.

Full publications list

Google Scholar Profile



  • Perception and Cognition Year 1 (Undergraduate core module) 2017

External activities


  • British Association for Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Vision Sciences Society

Contact details

Dr Fiona McNab
Department of Psychology
Room PS/C227

Tel: 01904 322874