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€1m Brain Prize awarded to three British neuroscientists

1 Mar, 2016

Credit: Neil Webb. Wellcome Images

 

Three British neuroscientists have been awarded the world’s most valuable prize for brain research for their outstanding work on the mechanisms of memory. This year’s winners of the €1m Euro Brain Prize are Tim Bliss, Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris.

The annual Brain Prize, awarded by the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation in Denmark, recognises one or more scientists who have distinguished themselves by an outstanding contribution to neuroscience.

The research by Professors Bliss, Collingridge and Morris has focused on a brain mechanism known as ‘Long-Term Potentiation’ (LTP), which underpins the life-long plasticity of the brain. Their discoveries, supported in part by Wellcome Trust funding, have revolutionised our understanding of how memories are formed, retained and lost.

Areas of the human brain and their functions. Credit: Anna Tanczos. Wellcome Images

The three neuroscientists have independently and collectively shown how the connections – called synapses – between brain cells in the hippocampus are strengthened through repeated stimulation. Their work has revealed some of the basic mechanisms behind the phenomenon of LTP and has shown that this system is the basis for our ability to learn and remember.

Sir Colin Blakemore, chairman of the Brain Prize selection committee said: “Memory is at the heart of human experience. This year’s winners, through their ground-breaking research, have transformed our understanding of memory and learning, and the devastating effects of failing memory.”

Neuron connecting with an axon via synapse Credit: Benedict Campbell. Wellcome Images

Neuron connecting with an axon via synapse
Credit: Benedict Campbell. Wellcome Images

Dr John Isaac, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, added: “The formation of memory underpins so many of the things that make us human – from recognising the faces of those we love to learning a new language or enjoying our favourite song. The three scientists honoured today have made an enormous contribution to our understanding of this fascinating field, and it’s fantastic to see their years of hard work recognised publically.”

The award to three UK neuroscientists testifies to the strong and sustained support that the UK funding bodies, particularly the Medical Research Council, have given to their research over the past three decades. Professors Bliss, Collingridge and Morris will share the prize of one million Euros, which will be presented to them at a ceremony on 1 July in Copenhagen by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.

Find out more about the Wellcome Trust’s funding schemes on our website.

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