British scientists awarded Denmark-based brain research prize

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Copenhagen, March 2 (IANS) Three British scientists have won a prestigious brain research prize for their ground-breaking work into memory, the award organiser announced here on Tuesday.

Timothy Bliss, Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris, were awarded Denmark’s one million euro ($1,45,751) Brain Prize 2016 for giving vital insight into the way in which the human brain remembers, learns and navigates, Xinhua reported.

“Together, the three scientists have revealed how the brain can alter through experience, enabling us to acquire new information and adapt to our surroundings. These scientists have also provided us with better tools for understanding serious diseases such as depression, epilepsy and drug addiction. An achievement of this kind deserves recognition,” the award committee said in a press statement.

The hippocampus, which is deep in the centre of the brain, is the brain’s learning portal that enables us to store information. These three researchers have shown how neurons in the hippocampus collaborate and provide a basis for understanding how humans go about remembering, the organiser said.

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They have shown how the connection between brain cells in the hippocampus can be strengthened through repeated stimulation — a phenomenon that is called long-term potentiation.

The scientists have also described the mechanisms behind the phenomenon and have proven that long-term potentiation is the very basis for our ability to learn, remember and navigate our surroundings.

Moreover, their research results show that the brain is able to handle and adapt to new impressions and events, and this plasticity enables the brain to reorganise itself after damage such as stroke or sudden blindness.

Bliss, a visiting worker at the Crick Institute in London, gave the first detailed description of long-term potentiation in both anaesthetised and non-anaesthetised laboratory animals as early as 1973. Since then, he has worked intensively to describe the underlying mechanisms and has been the driving force in this research field.

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Collingridge, who is a professor of neuroscience in anatomy at the University of Bristol, also head of the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto, has developed and applied sophisticated, pharmacological techniques to identify and describe the signal molecules and receptors responsible for long-term potentiation.

Morris, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, invented the “Morris water maze” method to prove that the hippocampus is essential to our ability to navigate.

Established in 2010, the prize is awarded annually by non-profit organisation Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation.

The three researchers will share the prize, which will be presented at a ceremony scheduled for July 1 in Copenhagen.

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