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£2 million award will advance understanding of mechanisms of learning and memory

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Press release issued: 22 June 2017

Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol have been awarded a prestigious £2 million Wellcome Trust Investigator Award for a five-year study to investigate the neuronal circuits that drive our recognition memory.

Recognition memory is essential for us to lead normal everyday lives as it helps us to distinguish between what is new and what is familiar through contextual associations, such as location or time, thus enabling us to remember, for example, where we parked the car or where we left our keys.

Such memories require encoding of associations through highly interconnected brain regions within the medial temporal lobe, frontal cortex and thalamus. While previous work has established the importance of different regions, there is little known about how communication between these different brain regions allows us to acquire and recall different memories.  

This Joint Investigator Award study, led by Professors Zafar Bashir and Clea Warburton from Bristol’s School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience, aims to identify the synaptic mechanisms and neuronal activity that drive the multiple processes operating across the network of brain regions.

Using new techniques, the Bristol researchers will explore which neuronal connections within the complex circuit are important and when these are active to bring about memory formation and memory retrieval.

The study will establish how highly dynamic, synaptically connected, local and long-range neural networks enable associative recognition memory formation and recall.

The team hope these advances in the understanding of memory mechanisms will pave the way for future studies into how learning and memory decline with age or with dementia.

Further information

The Wellcome Trust-funded study is entitled ‘Establishing circuit, neuronal and synaptic mechanisms of associative recognition memory’.

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