Department of Neuroscience
Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems
University of Edinburgh
Understanding memory is one of the “Grand Challenges” of contemporary neuroscience. My research group is endeavouring to play a part in the worldwide endeavour by neuroscientists to understand the making, keeping and losing of memory.
With respect to ‘making’ and ‘keeping’ memory, our overriding goal is on developing a neurobiological account of the functions of the hippocampal formation in memory. Whereas past work has focused on the role of activity-dependent plasticity (such as LTP and LTD) in memory encoding, the current focus of my group’s work is on (a) the impact of subcortical neuromodulatory inputs in cellular consolidation (using pharmacological and optogenetic techniques) and (b) interactions between the hippocampus and neocortex in systems consolidation (with Santiago Canals, Instituto de Neurociencias, Alicante). Over the years, the main developments and discoveries of the lab include the ‘watermaze’, the role of NMDA receptors in spatial learning, and the co-development of the synaptic tagging and capture hypothesis of long-term potentiation (with Julie Frey – Medical College of Georgia). Exciting new work focuses on the creation and use of ‘schemas’ and the place of prior knowledge in systems consolidation (with Guillen Fernandez, Donders Institute, Nijmegen).
With respect to the ‘losing’ of memory, we have also had interests in translational neuroscience – and are engaged in adapting some of our novel behavioural tasks for work on cognitive function in animal models of neurodegeneration such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This work is now being taken forward by the new Chancellor’s Fellows in the Centre.