Cognitive neuroscience of memory and language

Javier_Pacios Research line coordinated by Javier Pacios.

Memory is one of our most outstanding cognitive capacities. It allows us to keep track of the changing environment, integrating past and present. Besides, memory difficulties are by far one of the most usual cognitive complaints related to neurological impairments. How do we manage to keep relevant information active until we complete some task? How do we recover past facts? How do we prevent forgetting? And why do we sometimes fail to do so? What role does memory play in sustaining language comprehension? These are some of the questions we ask ourselves in the lab, and we study the dynamics of brain oscillations and the neural communication mechanisms underlying these phenomena. In close relation with these questions, we also study cognitive control and its interaction with memory.


Fronto-posterior functional networks during the control of negative emotional distraction in working memory (García-Pacios et al. 2017)

Cognitive control is a main concept in modern cognitive neuroscience that refers to mechanisms underlying our capacity to flexibly adapt our behaviour to the changing circumstances. This construct entails a broad range of cognitive processes including, among others, attention allocation and inhibitory mechanisms that are engaged in the effective control of a variety of cognitive operations, such as memory or language. Top-down interactions across prefrontal and posterior brain areas as well as fronto-striato-thalamic loops are supposed to be key cerebral mechanisms subserving cognitive control. In particular, our research focus is the cognitive control of memory, especially when coping with irrelevant distracters. We are also interested in studying how cognitive control and memory capacity enable us to integrate information during language comprehension, developing a unified semantic meaning. For that, we use behavioural experiments, Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional connectivity measures to study brain network interactions.

Selected publications


  • Villalobos D, Pacios J, Vázquez C. Cognitive Control, Cognitive Biases and Emotion Regulation in Depression: A New Proposal for an Integrative Interplay Model. Front Psychol. 2021; 12:628416. PubMed ID: 33995183. PDF file PDF file.
  • Pacios J, Caperos JM, Del Río D, Maestú F. Emotional distraction in working memory: Bayesian-based evidence of the equivalent effect of positive and neutral interference. Cogn Emot. 2021 Mar; 35(2):282-290. PubMed ID: 33143521. PDF file PDF file.
  • Villalobos D, Caperos JM, Bilbao Á, López-Muñoz F, Pacios J. Cognitive predictors of self-awareness in patients with acquired brain injury along neuropsychological rehabilitation. Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2021 Jul; 31(6):983-1001. PubMed ID: 32325009. PDF file PDF file.


  • Villalobos D, Caperos JM, Bilbao Á, Bivona U, Formisano R, Pacios J. Self-Awareness Moderates the Association Between Executive Dysfunction and Functional Independence After Acquired Brain Injury. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2020 Aug; In press. PubMed ID: 32743646. PDF file PDF file.
  • Villalobos D, Bilbao A, López-Muñoz F, Pacios J. [Self-awareness as a key process for rehabilitation of patients with acquired brain injury: a systematic review]. Rev Neurol. 2020 Jan; 70(1):1-11. PubMed ID: 31845750. PDF file PDF file.


  • Echaide C, Del Río D, Pacios J. The differential effect of background music on memory for verbal and visuospatial information. J Gen Psychol. 2019; 146(4):443-458. PubMed ID: 31033419. PDF file PDF file.


  • Fernandes SM, Araújo AM, Vázquez-Justo E, Pereira C, Silva A, Paul N, Yubero R, Maestú F. Effects of aging on memory strategies: a validation of the Portuguese version of the Test of Memory Strategies. Clin Neuropsychol. 2018; 32(sup1):133-151. PubMed ID: 29954246.
  • Villalobos D, Bilbao Á, Espejo A, García-Pacios J. Efficacy of an intervention programme for rehabilitation of awareness of deficit after acquired brain injury: A pilot study. Brain Inj. 2018; 32(2):158-166. PubMed ID: 29206059. PDF file PDF file.


  • García-Pacios J, Garcés P, Del Río D, Maestú F. Tracking the effect of emotional distraction in working memory brain networks: Evidence from an MEG study. Psychophysiology. 2017 Nov; 54(11):1726-1740. PubMed ID: 28649710. PDF file PDF file.
  • López-Higes R, Prados JM, Rubio S, Montejo P, Del Río D. Executive functions and linguistic performance in SCD older adults and healthy controls. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2017 Nov; 24(6):717-734. PubMed ID: 27841734.
  • Solesio-Jofre E, López-Frutos JM, Cashdollar N, Aurtenetxe S, de Ramón I, Maestú F. The effects of aging on the working memory processes of multimodal information. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2017 May; 24(3):299-320. PubMed ID: 27405057.


  • Aurtenetxe S, García-Pacios J, Del Río D, López ME, Pineda-Pardo JA, Marcos A, Delgado Losada ML, López-Frutos JM, Maestú F. Interference Impacts Working Memory in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Front Neurosci. 2016; 10:443. PubMed ID: 27790082. PDF file PDF file.


  • García-Pacios J, Garcés P, Del Río D, Maestú F. Early detection and late cognitive control of emotional distraction by the prefrontal cortex. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun; 5:10046. PubMed ID: 26067780. PDF file PDF file.
  • Ariza P, Solesio-Jofre E, Martínez JH, Pineda-Pardo JA, Niso G, Maestú F, Buldú JM. Evaluating the effect of aging on interference resolution with time-varying complex networks analysis. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015; 9:255. PubMed ID: 26029079.
  • García-Pacios J, Del Río D, Villalobos D, Ruiz-Vargas JM, Maestú F. Emotional interference-based forgetting in short-term memory. Cognitive inhibition of pleasant but not unpleasant biologically relevant distractors. Front Psychol. 2015; 6:582. PubMed ID: 25999894. PDF file PDF file.


  • Lopez-Higes R, Prados JM, del Rio D, Galindo-Fuentes M, Reinoso AI, Lozano-Ibanez M. [Semantic verbal fluency of animals in amnesia-type mild cognitive impairment]. Rev Neurol. 2014 Jun; 58(11):493-9. PubMed ID: 24861224.


  • Cela-Conde CJ, García-Prieto J, Ramasco JJ, Mirasso CR, Bajo R, Munar E, Flexas A, del-Pozo F, Maestú F. Dynamics of brain networks in the aesthetic appreciation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun; 110 Suppl 2:10454-61. PubMed ID: 23754437. PDF file PDF file.
  • García-Pacios J, Gutiérrez R, Solesio E, Moratti S, Ruiz-Vargas JM, López-Frutos JM, Lorenzo-López L, Del-Pozo F, Maestú F. Early prefrontal activation as a mechanism to prevent forgetting in the context of interference. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013 Jun; 21(6):580-8. PubMed ID: 23388623. PDF file PDF file.
  • Aurtenetxe S, Castellanos NP, Moratti S, Bajo R, Gil P, Beitia G, del-Pozo F, Maestú F. Dysfunctional and compensatory duality in mild cognitive impairment during a continuous recognition memory task. Int J Psychophysiol. 2013 Jan; 87(1):95-102. PubMed ID: 23178844.


  • del Río D, Cuesta P, Bajo R, García-Pacios J, López-Higes R, del-Pozo F, Maestú F. Efficiency at rest: magnetoencephalographic resting-state connectivity and individual differences in verbal working memory. Int J Psychophysiol. 2012 Nov; 86(2):160-7. PubMed ID: 22940641. PDF file PDF file.
  • Escorial S, Martin-Buro C. The role of personality and intelligence in assortative mating. Span J Psychol. 2012 Jul; 15(2):680-7. PubMed ID: 22774442. PDF file PDF file.
  • Munar E, Nadal M, Rosselló J, Flexas A, Moratti S, Maestú F, Marty G, Cela-Conde CJ. Lateral orbitofrontal cortex involvement in initial negative aesthetic impression formation. PLoS One. 2012; 7(6):e38152. PubMed ID: 22675517.
  • del Río D, López-Higes R, Martín-Aragoneses MT. Canonical word order and interference-based integration costs during sentence comprehension: the case of Spanish subject- and object-relative clauses. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012; 65(11):2108-28. PubMed ID: 22524672.
  • Solesio-Jofre E, Lorenzo-López L, Gutiérrez R, López-Frutos JM, Ruiz-Vargas JM, Maestú F. Age-related effects in working memory recognition modulated by retroactive interference. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Jun; 67(6):565-72. PubMed ID: 22080502.


  • Solesio-Jofre E, Lorenzo-López L, Gutiérrez R, López-Frutos JM, Ruiz-Vargas JM, Maestú F. Age effects on retroactive interference during working memory maintenance. Biol Psychol. 2011 Sep; 88(1):72-82. PubMed ID: 21741434.
  • Maestú F, Yubero R, Moratti S, Campo P, Gil-Gregorio P, Paul N, Solesio E, del Pozo F, Nevado A. Brain activity patterns in stable and progressive mild cognitive impairment during working memory as evidenced by magnetoencephalography. J Clin Neurophysiol. 2011 Apr; 28(2):202-9. PubMed ID: 21399524.
  • del Río D, Maestú F, López-Higes R, Moratti S, Gutiérrez R, Maestú C, del-Pozo F. Conflict and cognitive control during sentence comprehension: recruitment of a frontal network during the processing of Spanish object-first sentences. Neuropsychologia. 2011 Feb; 49(3):382-91. PubMed ID: 21147136.


  • López-Higes R, Rubio Valdehita S, Martín Aragoneses MT, Del Río D. Interindividual variability in vocabulary, sentence comprehension and working memory in the elderly: effects of cognitive deterioration. Span J Psychol. 2010 May; 13(1):75-87. PubMed ID: 20480679.
  • Lindín M, Díaz F, Capilla A, Ortiz T, Maestú F. On the characterization of the spatio-temporal profiles of brain activity associated with face naming and the tip-of-the-tongue state: a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) study. Neuropsychologia. 2010 May; 48(6):1757-66. PubMed ID: 20206189.


  • Maestú F, Campo P, García-Morales I, del Barrio A, Paul N, del Pozo F, Ortiz T, Gil-Nagel A. Biomagnetic profiles of verbal memory success in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav. 2009 Nov; 16(3):527-33. PubMed ID: 19818693.
  • Abecasis D, Brochard R, Del Río D, Dufour A, Ortiz T. Brain lateralization of metrical accenting in musicians. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul; 1169:74-8. PubMed ID: 19673756.
  • Solesio E, Lorenzo-López L, Campo P, López-Frutos JM, Ruiz-Vargas JM, Maestú F. Retroactive interference in normal aging: a magnetoencephalography study. Neurosci Lett. 2009 Jun; 456(2):85-8. PubMed ID: 19429139.
  • Cela-Conde CJ, Ayala FJ, Munar E, Maestú F, Nadal M, Capó MA, del Río D, López-Ibor JJ, Ortiz T, Mirasso C, Marty G. Sex-related similarities and differences in the neural correlates of beauty. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar; 106(10):3847-52. PubMed ID: 19237562.


  • de la Guía-Jiménez E, del Río D, González-Sanz L, Maestú F, Ortiz T. [Study of the functional reorganisation of language in a patient with perinatal insult in the left hemisphere]. Rev Neurol. 2008; 46(12):727-30. PubMed ID: 18543199.
  • Campo P, Maestú F, Capilla A, Morales M, Fernández S, del Río D, Ortiz T. Temporal dynamics of parietal activity during word-location binding. Neuropsychology. 2008 Jan; 22(1):85-99. PubMed ID: 18211158.


  • Al-Hamouri F, Maestú F, Del Río D, Fernández S, Campo P, Capilla A, García E, González-Marqués J, Ortiz T. Brain dynamics of Arabic reading: a magnetoencephalographic study. Neuroreport. 2005 Nov; 16(16):1861-4. PubMed ID: 16237343.
  • Maestú F, Campo P, Capilla A, Simos PG, Paúl N, Fernandez S, Fernández A, Amo C, González-Marqués J, Ortiz T. Prefrontal brain magnetic activity: effects of memory task demands. Neuropsychology. 2005 May; 19(3):301-308. PubMed ID: 15910116.
  • Maestú F, Paul N, Muñoz-Céspedes JM, Campo P, Ríos M, Alvarez-Linera J, Fernandez A, Ortiz T. Could activity in anterior frontal regions predict performance on declarative memory tests? Neuroreport. 2005 Mar; 16(4):337-41. PubMed ID: 15729134.


  • Maestú F, Quesney-Molina F, Ortiz-Alonso T, Campo P, Fernández-Lucas A, Amo C. [Cognition and neural networks, a new perspective based on functional neuroimaging]. Rev Neurol. 2003; 37(10):962-6. PubMed ID: 14634928.
  • Maestú F, Simos PG, Campo P, Fernández A, Amo C, Paul N, González-Marqués J, Ortiz T. Modulation of brain magnetic activity by different verbal learning strategies. Neuroimage. 2003 Oct; 20(2):1110-21. PubMed ID: 14568480.


  • Maestú F, Fernández A, Simos PG, Gil-Gregorio P, Amo C, Rodriguez R, Arrazola J, Ortiz T. Spatio-temporal patterns of brain magnetic activity during a memory task in Alzheimer's disease. Neuroreport. 2001 Dec; 12(18):3917-22. PubMed ID: 11742211.
  • Simos PG, Castillo EM, Fletcher JM, Francis DJ, Maestu F, Breier JI, Maggio WW, Papanicolaou AC. Mapping of receptive language cortex in bilingual volunteers by using magnetic source imaging. J Neurosurg. 2001 Jul; 95(1):76-81. PubMed ID: 11453401.