Prof Seán Commins

Psychology, Human Health Institute, ALL Institute


John Hume Building
(01) 708 6182


Having obtained his PhD from Trinity College Dublin in 1999, Dr. Sean Commins was first appointed as Lecturer (2001), Senior Lecturer (2008) and Professor (2020) in the Department of Psychology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. He has over 80 publications in international neuroscience journals such as Brain Research, Hippocampus, European Journal of Neuroscience and Learning & Memory and has presented his work at many international conferences (e.g FENS, EBBS). Dr Commins has attracted funding from a wide variety of sources including Science Foundation of Ireland, Health Research Board of Ireland, the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and also the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr Commins currently has a team of 2 PhD and 1 MSc students and, to date, has graduated 13 PhD students. Dr. Commins has also received numerous awards including Presidential Early Career Award (2005) and Irish Heart Foundation Noel Hickey award (2011) in recognition of his research. Finally, he is a committee member of Neuroscience Ireland.

Research Interests

Dr. Commins’ research is the general area of behavioural neuroscience and is particularly interested in spatial navigation and the formation of long-term spatial memories. He also examines the role of the hippocampus and the surrounding cortical area (entorhinal and perirhinal) in memory formation and investigates its molecular underpinnings. The second area of interest is the examination of cognitive deficits following stroke. In collaboration with Tallaght Hospital Dublin, Dr. Commins is investigating memory and attentional impairments immediately following stroke and trying to understand how these deficits recover with time. This work also examines the neural underpinnings of such deficits and how the brain changes following recovery. A third area of research is the examination of driving behaviour. In particular, this work investigates the interaction between cognition and driving and how impairments in cognition, through ageing or an age-related disorder, can impinge on a person’s ability to drive.

Research Projects

Title Role Description Start date End date Amount
NavWell: a tool for spatial learning and memory PI 01/03/2018 08/03/2019 0
Examination of the role played by spatial cognition in navigation, balance and gait, and falling occurrences in elderly and stroke patients PI 01/10/2011 30/09/2012 0


Year Publication
2018 Roche R.; Farina F.; Commins S. (2018) Why science needs art: From historical to modern day perspectives. [DOI]
2018 Commins S. (2018) Behavioural Neuroscience. [DOI]
2009 Roche, RAP & Commins, S (2009) Pioneering Studies in Modern Cognitive Neuroscience. : Open University Press.

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2023 Viard, A.; Allen, A.P.; Doyle, C.M.; Naveau, M.; Bokde, A.L.W.; Platel, H.; Eustache, F.; Commins, S.; Roche, R.A.P. (2023) 'Autobiographical Cerebral Network Activation in Older Adults Before and After Reminiscence Therapy: A Preliminary Report'. Biological Research for Nursing, . [Link] [DOI] [Full-Text]
2023 Caffrey, M.; Commins, S. (2023) 'Preservation of long-term memory in older adults using a spaced learning paradigm'. European Journal of Ageing, 20 . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Deery, R.; Commins, S. (2023) 'Landmark Distance Impacts the Overshadowing Effect in Spatial Learning Using a Virtual Water Maze Task with Healthy Adults'. Brain Sciences, 13 . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Clarke, A.; Ashe, C.; Jenkinson, J.; Rowe, O.; Hyland, P.; Commins, S. (2023) 'Predicting conversion of patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment to Alzheimer’s disease using bedside cognitive assessments'. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Commins, S.; Coutrot, A.; Hornberger, M.; Spiers, H.J.; De Andrade Moral, R. (2023) 'Examining individual learning patterns using generalised linear mixed models'. Behavior Research Methods, . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Thornberry, C.; Caffrey, M.; Commins, S. (2023) 'Theta oscillatory power decreases in humans are associated with spatial learning in a virtual water maze task'. European Journal of Neuroscience, . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Dolphin, H.; Dyer, A.H.; Dukelow, T.; Finucane, C.; Commins, S.; Kennelly, S.P. (2023) 'Safety and feasibility of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation in mild cognitive impairment: VINCI-AD study protocol'. BMC Neurology, 23 . [Link] [DOI] [Full-Text]
2023 Stapleton, T.; Jetter, K.; Commins, S. (2023) 'Recommendations on developing an on-road fitness-to-drive route and test that incorporates an assessment for higher cognitive functioning'. IRISH JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY, . [Link] [DOI]
2021 Thornberry C; Cimadevilla JM; Commins S; (2021) 'Virtual Morris water maze: opportunities and challenges'. Reviews in the Neurosciences, . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2019 Commins S; Fey D; (2019) 'Understanding the role of distance, direction and cue salience in an associative model of landmark learning'. Scientific Reports, 9 (1). [DOI] [Full-Text]
2019 Commins S; Kirby BP; (2019) 'The complexities of behavioural assessment in neurodegenerative disorders: A focus on Alzheimer's disease'. Pharmacological Research, 147 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2019 Barry DN; Commins S; (2019) 'A novel control condition for spatial learning in the Morris water maze'. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 318 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2019 Walshe EA; Roche RAP; Ward C; Patterson M; O'Neill D; Collins R; Commins S; (2019) 'Comparable walking gait performance during executive and non-executive cognitive dual-tasks in chronic stroke: A pilot study'. Gait and Posture, 71 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2018 Allen AP; Doyle C; Commins S; Roche RAP; (2018) 'Autobiographical memory, the ageing brain and mechanisms of psychological interventions'. Ageing Research Reviews, 42 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2018 Commins S; (2018) 'Efficiency: an underlying principle of learning?'. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 29 (2). [DOI]
2017 Kealy J.; Commins S.; Lowry J. (2017) 'The effect of NMDA-R antagonism on simultaneously acquired local field potentials and tissue oxygen levels in the brains of freely-moving rats'. Neuropharmacology, 116 :343-350. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2017 Barry DN; Commins S; (2017) 'Temporal dynamics of immediate early gene expression during cellular consolidation of spatial memory'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 327 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Kemeny A.; Brogan M.; Markham C.; Commins S.; Deegan C. (2016) 'Changing lanes: Generating steerable environments in video-based driving simulation'. Simulation, 92 (5):407-415. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Anderson, ST; Commins, S; Moynagh, P; Coogan, AN (2016) 'Chronic fluoxetine treatment attenuates post-septic affective changes in the mouse'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 297 :112-115. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Farina FR; Commins S; (2016) 'Differential expression of immediate early genes Zif268 and c-Fos in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex following spatial learning and glutamate receptor antagonism'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 307 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Barry DN; Coogan AN; Commins S; (2016) 'The time course of systems consolidation of spatial memory from recent to remote retention: A comparison of the Immediate Early Genes Zif268, c-Fos and Arc'. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 128 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Brogan, M; Markham, C; Commins, S; Deegan, C (2015) 'Steering in Video-Based Driving Simulation with Stereo Depth Maps Dynamic Perspective Corrections'. Transportation Research Record, :104-112. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Farina F.; Burke T.; Coyle D.; Jeter K.; McGee M.; O'Connell J.; Taheny D.; Commins S. (2015) 'Learning efficiency: The influence of cue salience during spatial navigation'. Behavioural Processes, 116 :17-27. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Anderson, ST; O'Callaghan, EK; Commins, S; Coogan, AN (2015) 'Does prior sepsis alter subsequent circadian and sickness behaviour response to lipopolysaccharide treatment in mice?'. Journal of Neural Transmission, 122 :63-73. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Leamy D.; Kocijan J.; Domijan K.; Duffin J.; Roche R.; Commins S.; Collins ; Ward T. (2015) 'An exploration of EEG features during recovery following stroke - Implications for BCI-mediated neurorehabilitation therapy'. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 11 (1). [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Walshe, EA; Patterson, MR; Commins, S; Roche, RAP (2015) 'Dual-task and electrophysiological markers of executive cognitive processing in older adult gait and fall-risk'. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9 . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Anderson, ST; Commins, S; Moynagh, PN; Coogan, AN (2015) 'Lipopolysaccharide-induced sepsis induces long-lasting affective changes in the mouse'. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 43 :98-109. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2014 Daly, N; Brogan, M; Kaneswaran, D; Deegan, C; Markham, C; Commins, S (2014) 'An exploratory study of the role played by sustained attention along a rural Irish route using a video-playback system'. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 26 :138-150. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2014 Brogan, M., Kaneswaran, D., Commins, S., Markham, C., Deegan, C (2014) 'Automatic generation and population of a graphics-based driving simulator: Use of mobile mapping data for behavioral testing of drivers'. Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2434 :95-102. [Full-Text]
2013 Diviney, M; Fey, D; Commins, S (2013) 'Hippocampal contribution to vector model hypothesis during cue-dependent navigation'. Learning and Memory, 20 :367-378. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2012 Duffin, JT; Collins, DR; Coughlan, T; O'Neill, D; Roche, RAP; Commins, S (2012) 'Subtle memory and attentional deficits revealed in an Irish stroke patient sample using domain-specific cognitive tasks'. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 34 :864-875. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2011 Fey, D; Commins, S; Bullinger, E (2011) 'Feedback control strategies for spatial navigation revealed by dynamic modelling of learning in the Morris water maze'. Journal of Computational Neuroscience, 30 :447-454. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2011 Kealy J, Commins S. (2011) 'The rat perirhinal cortex: A review of anatomy, physiology, plasticity, and function'. Progress in Neurobiology, 93 :522-548. [Full-Text]
2011 Barry, DN; Commins, S (2011) 'Imaging spatial learning in the brain using immediate early genes: insights, opportunities and limitations'. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 22 :131-142. [DOI]
2010 Kealy J & Commins S (2010) 'Frequency-dependent changes in synaptic plasticity and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the CA1 to perirhinal cortex projection. '. Journal of Brain Research, 1326 :51-61. [Full-Text]
2009 Kealy J.; Commins S. (2009) 'Antagonism of glutamate receptors in the CA1 to perirhinal cortex projection prevents long-term potentiation and attenuates levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor'. Journal of Brain Research, 1265 :53-64. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2008 McGauran, AMT; Barry, D; Moore, JB; Madsen, D; O'Dea, S; Mahon, BP; Commins, S (2008) 'A possible role for protein synthesis, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in long-term spatial memory retention in the water maze'. Behavioral Neuroscience, 122 :805-815. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2007 Roche, RAP, Commins, S, Agnew, F, Cassidy, S, Corapi, K, Leibbrand, S, Lipson, Z, Rickard, J, Sorohan, J, Wynne, C & O’Mara, SM (2007) 'Concurrent task performance enhances low-level visuomotor learning'. Perception and Psychophysics, 69 :513-522. [Full-Text]
2007 Craig, S; Commins, S (2007) 'Plastic and metaplastic changes in the CA1 and sublicular projections to the entorhinal cortex'. Journal of Brain Research, 1147 :124-139. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2006 Roche, R.A.P., Scanlon, P. and Commins, S. (2006) 'High-density event-related potentials: Current theories and practice'. The Irish Psychologist, 33 :1-4. [Full-Text]
2006 Harvey D, Smith R, English K, Commins, S. and Mahon, B. (2006) 'Interleukin-10 (IL-10) but not Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) produces increased motor activity and abnormal exploratory pattern while impairing spatial learning in Balb/c mice'. Physiology and Behavior, 87 :842-847. [Full-Text]
2005 Craig, S; Commins, S (2005) 'Interaction between paired-pulse facilitation and long-term potentiation in the projection from hippocampal area CAI to the entorhinal cortex'. Neuroscience Research, 53 :140-146. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2005 Craig, S; Cunningham, L; Kelly, L; Commins, S (2005) 'Long-term retention and overshadowing of proximal and distal cues following habituation in an object exploration task'. Behavioural Processes, 68 :117-128. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2005 Barnes-Holmes, D; Regan, D; Barnes-Holmes, Y; Commins, S; Walsh, D; Stewart, I; Smeets, PM; Whelan, R; Dymond, S (2005) 'Relating derived relations as a model of analogical reasoning: Reaction times and event-related potentials'. JOURNAL OF THE EXPERIMENTAL ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR, 84 :435-451. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2005 Barnes-Holmes, D; Staunton, C; Whelan, R; Barnes-Holmes, Y; Commins, S; Walsh, D; Stewart, I; Smeets, PM; Dymond, S (2005) 'Derived stimulus relations, semantic priming, and event-related potentials: Testing a behavioral theory of semantic networks'. JOURNAL OF THE EXPERIMENTAL ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR, 84 :417-433. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2004 McGauran, AMT; Harvey, D; Cunningham, L; Craig, S; Commins, S (2004) 'Retention of cue-based associations in the water maze is time-dependent and sensitive to disruption by rotating the starting position'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 151 :255-266. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2004 Roche RAP, Commins S & O’Mara SM. (2004) 'Low-level visuomotor learning disrupts higher-order behavioural control'. IRISH JOURNAL 0F PSYCHOLOGY, 25 (1-4):16-25.
2004 D. Barnes-Holmes, C. Staunton, Y. Barnes-Holmes, R. Whelan, I. Stewart, S. Commins, D. Walsh, P. Smeets and S. Dymond (2004) 'Interfacing relational frame theory with cognitive neuroscience: Semantic priming, the implicit association test, and event related potentials'. International Journal of Psychology, 4 :215-240. [Full-Text]
2003 Commins, S; Cunningham, L; Harvey, D; Walsh, D (2003) 'Massed but not spaced training impairs spatial memory'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 139 :215-223. [Full-Text]
2020 Farina F.R.; Commins S. (2020) 'Hippocampal and prefrontal contributions to memory retrieval: Examination of immediate early gene, NMDA receptor and environmental interactions'. European Journal of Neuroscience, . [DOI]
2003 Shaw KN, Commins, S, O’Mara SM (2003) 'Deficits in spatial learning and synaptic plasticity induced by the rapid and competitive broad-spectrum cyclooxygenase inhibitor ibuprofen are reversed by increasing endogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor'. European Journal of Neuroscience, 17 :2438-2446.
2002 Commins, S; Aggleton, JP; O'Mara, SM (2002) 'Physiological evidence for a possible projection from dorsal subiculum to hippocampal area CA1'. Experimental Brain Research, 146 :155-160. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2001 Commins, S., L.A.J. O'Neill & O'Mara, S.M. (2001) 'The effects of the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide on synaptic transmission and plasticity in the CA1-subiculum pathway in vivo'. 102 :273-280.
2001 Shaw KN; Commins S; O'Mara SM; (2001) 'Lipopolysaccharide causes deficits in spatial learning in the watermaze but not in BDNF expression in the rat dentate gyrus'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 124 (1). [DOI]
2001 O'Mara, S.M., Commins, S., Anderson, M., & Gigg, J. (2001) 'The Subiculum: Perspectives on Anatomy to Behaviour'. Progress in Neurobiology, 64 :129-155.
2000 Commins, S. & O'Mara, S.M. (2000) 'Interactions between Paired-Pulse Facilitation, Low-Frequency Stimulation and Behavioural Stress in the Pathway from Hippocampal Area CA1 to the Subiculum: Dissociation of Baseline Synaptic Transmission from Paired-Pulse Facilitation and Depression of the Same Pathway'. Psychobiology, 28 :1-11.
2000 O'Mara, S.M., Commins, S. and Anderson, M. (2000) 'Synaptic plasticity in the hippocampal area CA1-subiculum projection: Implications for theories of memory'. Hippocampus, 10 :447-456.
2000 Anderson, M., Commins, S. and O'Mara, S.M. (2000) 'The effects of low-frequency and two-pulse stimulation protocols on synaptic transmission in the CA1-subiculum pathway in the anaesthetized rat'. Neuroscience Letters, 279 :181-184.
1999 Commins, S., Gemmell, C., Anderson, M., Gigg, J. and O'Mara, S.M. (1999) 'Disorientation combined with parietal cortex lesions causes path integration deficits in the Water Maze'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 104 :197-200.
1999 Commins, S., Anderson, M., Gigg, J. and O'Mara, S.M. (1999) 'Long-Term Potentiation of the Projection from Hippocampal Area CA1 to the Subiculum: The Effects of Single and Multiple Episodes of High Frequency Stimulation'. Neuroscience Letters, 270 :99-102.
1998 Commins, S., Gigg, J., Anderson, M. and O'Mara, S.M. (1998) 'Interactions between Paired-Pulse Facilitation and Long-Term Potentiation in the Projection from Hippocampal Area CA1 to the Subiculum'. NeuroReport, 9 :4109-4113.
1998 Commins, S., Gigg, J., Anderson M. & O'Mara, S.M. (1998) 'The projection from hippocampal area CA1 to the subiculum sustains long-term potentiation'. NeuroReport, 9 :847-850.
1997 O’Mara, S.M., Commins, S., Gemmell, C. & Gigg, J. ( (1997) 'Long-term potentiation: Does it deserve attention?'. Behavioral Brain Research, 20 :625-626.
2019 Commins, S; Duffin, J; Chaves, K; Leahy, D; Corcoran, K; Caffrey, M; Keenan, L; Finan, D; Thornberry, C (2019) 'NavWell: A simplified virtual-reality platform for spatial navigation and memory experiments'. Behavior Research Methods, . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2013 Commins, S; McCormack, K; Callinan, E; Fitzgerald, H; Molloy, E; Young, K (2013) 'Manipulation of visual information does not change the accuracy of distance estimation during a blindfolded walking task'. Human Movement Science, 32 :794-807. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2009 Harvey, DR; Brant, L; Commins, S (2009) 'Differences in cue-dependent spatial navigation may be revealed by in-depth swimming analysis'. Behavioural Processes, 82 :190-197. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2009 Murphy, JS; Wynne, CE; O'Rourke, EM; Commins, S; Roche, RAP (2009) 'High-resolution ERP mapping of cortical activation related to implicit object-location memory'. Biological Psychology, 82 :234-245. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2008 Kealy, J; Diviney, M; Kehoe, E; McGonagle, V; O'Shea, A; Harvey, D; Commins, S (2008) 'The effects of overtraining in the Morris water maze on allocentric and egocentric learning strategies in rats'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 192 :259-263. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2008 Harvey, DR; McGauran, AMT; Murphy, J; Burns, L; McMonagle, E; Commins, S (2008) 'Emergence of an egocentric cue guiding and allocentric inferring strategy that mirrors hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the Morris water maze'. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 89 :462-479. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2006 Craig, S; Commins, S (2006) 'The subiculum to entorhinal cortex projection is capable of sustaining both short- and long-term plastic changes'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 174 :281-288. [DOI]
2005 Roche, RAP, Mangaoang, MA, Commins, S & O’Mara, SM (2005) 'Hippocampal contributions to neurocognitive mapping in humans: A new model'. Hippocampus, 15 :622-641. [Full-Text]
2005 Shaw, KN; Commins, S; O'Mara, SM (2005) 'Cyclooxygenase inhibition attenuates endotoxin-induced spatial learning deficits, but not an endotoxin-induced blockade of long-term potentiation'. Journal of Brain Research, 1038 :231-237. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2005 McGauran, AMT; O'Mara, SM; Commins, S (2005) 'Vestibular influence on water maze retention: transient whole body rotations improve the accuracy of the cue-based retention strategy'. BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH, 158 :183-187. [DOI] [Full-Text]
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2024) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.

Honors and Awards

Date Title Awarding Body
01/01/2005 Presidential Early Career Research Award
01/01/2011 Noel Hickey Research award


Start date Institution Qualification Subject
BSc (Hons.)