Memory: why it matters and how it works

28th Mar 2017

The Edinburgh Neuroscience Christmas Lecture 2016 delivered by Professor Richard Morris, CBE, FRS, Professor of Neuroscience, Centre for Cognitive & Neural Systems, and 2016 Brain Prize Winner.

Memory is fundamental to human life. Different forms of memory enable us to learn, keep track of events as they happen, and remember episodes from the past. As we do so, we also build up a storehouse of personal and public knowledge that we use all the time. The lecture will try to convey why memory matters and how we think it works in the brain. Is there a single place in the brain where it resides – no! Is there just one mechanism of memory – no! Despite the complexities, and speaking to the theme of “It’s the circuit, stupid”, this lecture will describe how neuroscientists are gradually getting a handle on the various types of memory and how, in particular, long-term memory requires the brain to change physically in response to experience – a capacity called plasticity. But plasticity has to be embedded into specific circuits of brain cells, and it is the presence of such circuits that marks off the brain from the other organs of the body.

Professor Richard Morris, CBE, FRS was until recently, Director of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh where he continues to direct an international laboratory devoted to understanding the neurobiology of memory. He has worked in Scotland for nearly 40 years, considering it his ‘home from home’. He and his colleagues have been instrumental in making a number of novel discoveries about memory. A Fellow of both the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of London, he was awarded the prestigious Fondation Ipsen prize for Neural Plasticity in 2013, the Royal Medal for Science by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2014 and, most recently, the Brain Prize in 2016.

The talk is just over an hour long, and can be found on YouTube.

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