Professor Richard Morris, profile: Scientist and one of the winners of the coveted Brain Prize

The scientist is exploring how understanding memory could help tackle Alzheimer’s

Katie Grant
Tuesday 01 March 2016 22:43
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Professor Richard Morris from the University of Edinburgh Neuroscience Department beside the 'Morris Water Maze'
Professor Richard Morris from the University of Edinburgh Neuroscience Department beside the 'Morris Water Maze'

Something on his mind?

Professor Richard Morris and two of his colleagues have been named as the winners of this year’s coveted Brain Prize, regarded as the “Nobel prize for neuroscience”.

I can’t imagine that trophy looks very appealing…

How does €1m (£780,300) prize money sound? The cash will be split equally between the scientists, all of whom are British.

Who are the others involved?

Professor Tim Bliss, from London’s Francis Crick Institute, and Professor Graham Collingridge, from the University of Bristol. Prof Morris is from the University of Edinburgh.

Were they all working together?

Yes – each scientist made ground-breaking discoveries about the way synaptic connections in the hippocampus brain region are strengthened by repeated stimulation. The life-long process, called long-term potentiation (LTP), forms the basis of our ability to learn and remember.

What’s Prof Morris’s area of interest?

The scientist is exploring how understanding memory could help tackle Alzheimer’s.

Could the new research help?

He believes so. In its earliest stage, he claimed, the illness is a synaptic disease, making it difficult for people to create new memories. “It may be possible to build upon this body of work to develop new drugs that could help people at that stage ... before things get very bad,“ he said. The professor added the work would not be easy.

Thankfully there are three prize-winning brainboxes on the case.

Prof Bliss suggested it was only a matter of time before memory was fully understood and mastered. He claimed the findings could pave the way to instil in people memories of things didn’t actually experience.

Could there be a few ethical implications to consider there?

The professor said it would be “one of those things which society will have to decide“.

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