Staff Spotlight: Dr Dorothy Tse
Our spotlight shines on Dr Dorothy Tse this month who explains about her research in the neurobiology of learning and memory
What are you currently working on?
I am interested in understanding the neurobiology of learning and memory, such as why we remember some events yet forget others, how the brain encodes memories and subsequently transfers them to long term memories. Whilst you may remember details of what you ate, or what you wore, during a romantic dinner-date many years ago, you are much less likely to remember similar details from a more recent, yet random dinner.
I am working on two main lines of research:
1. Throughout each day, memories are automatically formed and yet most of these are quickly lost. Why do we remember some of events and some of them we forget? We know that retention of everyday memory can be enhanced when a novel event occurs that triggers the activation of dopamine in a brain region called hippocampus.
Our lab recently found that neurons in the locus coeruleus, a brain area that project to the hippocampus can drive novelty-induced memory through the release of dopamine in hippocampus and I am interested in the mechanisms underlying this neuromodulatory selectivity.
2. We learn new things better when we can relate them to prior knowledge (a schema). The concept of schemas was introduced in humans around 100 years ago. However, the neurobiology of schema is not well known. We previously found that new information can be assimilated into neocortical schemas very rapidly via systems consolidation. I am now investigating possible mechanisms underlying schema formation and how information is assimilated into a schema.
What do you hope will come out of your research?
I hope that, through my research, we gain a better understanding of how our brains learn new information and store this information. My hope is also that this new knowledge can have positive implications on better ways to learn information in schools and also for our ageing population to maximise learning.
How did you get here?
I studied my biotechnology undergraduate in Hong Kong. In my honour’s year project, I was honoured to get into Professor Ken Kin Lam Yung’s laboratory at the Hong Kong Baptist University to conduct a depression-related neuroscience project. Since then, I have been fascinated by behaviour and how it is linked to neuroscience and I came to the University of Edinburgh to do my MSc by Research in Neuroscience followed by PhD in Professor Richard Morris’s group. My research project was investigating how prior knowledge aided new learning and the brain mechanism used to accomplish this.
After my PhD, I continued as a postdoc in Professor Morris’s group and also took a break to look after my young children. In Oct 2017, I came back in Professor Morris’s lab as a senior postdoc and lab manager. This is a step up in my career and I really enjoy my role. Not only can I conduct research, but also manage our lab day-to-day. I am interested in teaching, I supervise undergraduates and MSc students projects. I also give lectures and tutorials in different undergraduates biomedical courses. All these are invaluable experience for a researcher, particularly one looking to become a principle investigator.
Who are you collaborating and working with?
The Morris group is currently collaborating with Dr Tomonori Takeuchi from the University of Aarhus and also Dr Steve Martin from the University of Dundee. We also have a team of talented researchers within the Morris group.