News

Leading prize for brain expert

The most valuable research prize for brain science has been awarded to an Edinburgh academic.

Photo of Professor Richard Morris

Neuroscientist Professor Richard Morris has received the award in recognition of his work to understand the mechanisms of memory.

Professor Morris shares the €1m euro Brain Prize with fellow neuroscientists Tim Bliss and Graham Collingridge.

Learning and memory

This year’s prize was awarded in recognition of their work to understand the brain mechanisms that underpin our ability to learn and remember.

Their discoveries have paved the way to better understanding of complex brain conditions that affect millions of people around the world.

These include autism, schizophrenia, depression, chronic pain, epilepsy and addiction.

The research is also helping to understand dementia and normal age-related memory loss.

I am naturally honoured to receive a share of this prize. It has all been made possible through the long-standing support of the Medical Research Council, superb facilities in a fine University, great colleagues in the lab at the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems and in Edinburgh Neuroscience, who together constitute one of the finest neuroscience communities in the world.

Professor Richard MorrisProfessor of Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh

Connections

The three neuroscientists have independently and collectively shown how connections between brain cells can be strengthened through repeated stimulation - a process called long-term potentiation (LTP).

Research

In 1986, Richard Morris used a new method he had developed to show that LTP was necessary for rats and mice learn to find their way around a new environment.

This began a long programme of research to establish the role of LTP in memory. The findings have revolutionised our understanding of how memories are formed, retained and lost.

Curiosity

Professor Morris said that much of the work on LTP has been driven by curiosity about how the brain stores memories. However, it is inevitable that knowledge of these basic mechanisms will help develop treatments for symptoms of memory loss and dementia, which are becoming increasingly prominent in our ageing society.

The Brain Prize

The Brain Prize is awarded annually by the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation in Denmark and is the most valuable research prize for neuroscience research.

We are delighted that Professor Richard Morris has won The Brain Prize. This is a very worthy recognition of Professor Morris’ pioneering research into the mechanisms of learning and memory in the brain. I am sure that the award of this prize will act as an inspiration to scientists at Edinburgh and beyond.

Professor Sir Timothy O’SheaPrincipal, University of Edinburgh

Nurturing success

Two of Professor Morris’ colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2014.

May Britt and Edvard Moser - who worked with Professor Morris between 1995 and 1997 - discovered specialised brain cells that form an internal navigation system that helps us to find our way in the world.