Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
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Prof Richard Morris

We are interested in the neurobiology of learning and memory.

Professor 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

Research

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 circuits, with reference to the physiology of relevant brain networks. 

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

The topic of plasticity is of considerable translational relevance.  Given this, we also have an active interest in applying 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 (with Dr Julie Frey)
  • 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; with Prof. Dr. Guillen Fernandez).
  • The Hippocampus Book (with Andersen, Amaral, Bliss and O’Keefe); Second edition imminent.
  • Occasional contributions to public engagement in science.

Techniques

The laboratory is primarily an in vivo behavioural laboratory conducting both human studies and animal work.  In addition to the watermaze, the new event-arena protocols have allowed studies of episodic-like and semantic-like memory to be successfully developed that rely on both memory encoding and memory recall.  This complements the several techniques in other groups using spontaneous recognition memory.  These behavioural protocols are used alongside electrophysiology, optogenetics, calcium-imaging, genetic modifications and pharmacology.  The human studies involve either cognitive neuroscience or neuroimaging techniques.

Funding

Team members

  • Patrick Spooner- Computing and Electronics Manager
  • Dr Francesco Gobbo - Postdoctoral Associate
  • Dr Nuria Garcia  - Postdoctoral Associate
  • Rufus Mitchell-Heggs – Research Assistant
  • Alex Prodan – Research Assistant
  • Hannah Davies – Research Assistant
  • Dr Dorothy Tse (Senior Lecturer at Edge Hill University) – Scientific Consultant

Research Collaborations

Other responsibilities and contributions

  • Member of Council of the Royal Society
  • Fellow of the Royal Society and International Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) in Section 28 (Systems Neuroscience)
  • Chair, Brain Prize Selection Committee (Lundbeck Foundation, Denmark).
  • Various Scientific Advisory Boards, including RIKEN Brain Sciences Institute (Tokyo, Japan) and Dandrite (Aarhus, Denmark).
  • Member of the DANA Alliance for Brain Initiatives (and contributions to public communication of neuroscience including a book on neuroscience for schoolchildren and a TEDx talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNyZmSg92HI).

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.

Rossato JI, Andrea Moreno A, Genzel L, Yamasaki M, Takeuchi T, Canals S and Morris RGM (2018) Silent Learning, Current Biology, 28, 3508–3515.

Fernandez G and Morris, RGM (2018) Memory, novelty and prior knowledge. Trends in Neuroscience, 41: 654-659.

Papers=214; Citations=78,438 (Google Scholar); ISI Highly Cited List.