Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences Transparent Logo

Prof Richard Morris

We are interested in the neurobiology of learning and memory.

Richard G M Morris (Professor, D.Phil, CBE, FRS)

  • 1 George Square
  • Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ

Contact details

Personal profile

  • Professor of Neuroscience (since 1974)
  • Former Director of Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems
  • Former Co-Director of Edinburgh Neuroscience

Research Theme


Understanding memory and helping to develop treatments for those with memory problems are two connected ‘Grand Challenges’ of contemporary neuroscience.

The primary research interest of my group is the neurobiology of learning and memory, and specifically whether and how memory depends on the ‘plasticity’ of the brain. We seek an understanding of memory mechanisms at the level of synapses, neurons, brain systems, and the underlying physiology that plays out in relevant networks.

We develop and use analytically powerful behavioural protocols (e.g. the ‘event arena’), together with neuropharmacological, optogenetic and molecular-engineering tools.

We also have an active interest in the translation of concepts and techniques from this fundamental work to develop new therapeutics targeted at Alzheimer's Disease and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Key scientific achievements include:

  • The development of the watermaze (now used worldwide)
  • Discovery of the role of the NMDA receptor in learning and memory
  • Joint development of the synaptic tagging and capture hypothesis
  • The translational development of age- and disease-related paradigms for investigating changes in memory in animal models of Alzheimer’s Disease
  • The neurobiology of prior knowledge (schemas)
  • The Hippocampus Book (with Andersen, Amaral, Bliss and O’Keefe)


Team members


  • Dr Paul Dudchenko (Psychology, Univ. Stirling, UK)
  • Dr Mark van Rossum (Informatics, Univ. Edinburgh, UK)
  • Prof. Dr Guillen Fernandez (Donders Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud Univ. Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
  • Professor Shona Chatterji (CDBR, NCBS, Bangalore, India).
  • Drs Santiago Canals and Jorge Brotons (Institute for Neuroscience, CSIC-UMH, Alicante, Spain)
  • Dr David Kleinfeld (Dept. Physics, UCSD, California, USA)
  • Dr Stephen Martin (Neuroscience, Univ. Dundee, UK)
  • Drs Marco Peters and Damian Wheeler (Dart Neuroscience, San Diego, California, USA)
  • Dr Mark Schnitzer (Dept. Bioengineering, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, USA)

Selected Publications

RGM Morris, P Garrud, JNP Rawlins and J O'Keefe (1982) Place navigation impaired in rats with hippocampal lesions. Nature, 297: 681-683.

RGM Morris, E Anderson, GS Lynch and M Baudry (1986) Selective impairment of learning and blockade of long-term potentiation in vivo by AP5, an NMDA antagonist. Nature, 319: 774-776.

R G M Morris (1989) Synaptic plasticity and learning: selective impairment of learning and blockade of LTP in vivo by the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist AP5.  J. Neurosci., 9: 3040-3057.

U Frey and RGM Morris (1997) Synaptic tagging and long-term potentiation. Nature, 385: 533-536.

G Chen, KS Chen, J Knox, J Inglis, A Bernard, SJ Martin, A Justice, L McConlogue, D Games, SB Friedman and RGM Morris (2000) A learning deficit related to age and B-amyloid plaques in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Nature, 408: 975-979.

S J Martin, P D Grimwood and R G M Morris (2000) Synaptic Plasticity and Memory: an evaluation of the hypothesis.  Annual Review of Neuroscience, 23: 649-711.

D Tse, RF. Langston, M Kakeyama, I Bethus, PA Spooner, ER Wood, MP Witter and RGM Morris (2007) Schemas and memory consolidation.  Science, 316: 76-82.

S-H Wang, RL Redondo and RGM Morris (2010) Relevance of synaptic tagging and capture to the persistence of long-term potentiation and everyday spatial memory. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 107: 19537-19542.

RL Redondo and RGM Morris (2011) Making memories last. Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 12: 17-30.

D Tse, T Takeuchi, M Kakeyama, Y Kajii, H Okuno, C Tohyama, H Bito and RGM Morris (2011) Schema-Dependent gene activation and Memory Encoding in Neocortex.  Science, 333, 891-895.

IC Wagner, M van Buuren, MCW Kroes, Gutteling, T, van der Linden, RGM Morris and G Fernandez (2015) Schematic memory components converge within angular gyrus during retrieval. eLife 2015;4:e09668; DOI: 10.7554/eLife.09668.

Takeuchi T, Duszkiewicz AJ, Sonneborn A, Spooner PA, Yamasaki M, Watanabe M, Smith CC, Fernández G, Deisseroth K, Greene RW & Morris RGM (2016) Locus coeruleus and dopaminergic consolidation of everyday memory. Nature, 537: 357-362.

43,829 citations; ISI Highly Cited List.