Memories of long term potentiation

15TH DAVID SMITH LECTURE Join us in person or attend remotely - e-mail for joining instructions

Tim Bliss gained his PhD at McGill University in Canada. He joined the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London in 1967, where he remained throughout his career. His work with Terje Lømo in the late 1960’s established the phenomenon of long-term potentiation (LTP) as the dominant synaptic model of how the mammalian brain stores memories.

He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994 and is a founding fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He shared the Bristol Myers Squibb award for Neuroscience with Eric Kandel in 1991, the Ipsen Prize for Neural Plasticity with Richard Morris and Yadin Dudai in 2013. In May 2012 he gave the annual Croonian Lecture at the Royal Society on ‘The Mechanics of Memory’. In 2016 Tim, with Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris shared the Brain Prize, one of the world’s most coveted science prizes.

In 1966 there appeared in Acta Physiologica Scandinavica an abstract of a talk given by Terje Lømo, a PhD student in Per Andersen’s laboratory at the University of Oslo. In it Lømo described the long-lasting potentiation of synaptic responses in the dentate gyrus of the anaesthetised rabbit that followed repeated episodes of 10-20Hz stimulation of the perforant path. Thus, heralded and almost entirely unnoticed, one of the most consequential discoveries of 20th century neuroscience was ushered into the world. Two years later I arrived in Oslo as a visiting post-doc from the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London. In this talk I recall the events that led us to embark on a systematic reinvestigation of the phenomenon now known as long-term potentiation (LTP) and will then go on to describe the discoveries and controversies that enlivened the early decades of research into synaptic plasticity in the mammalian brain. I will end with an observer’s view of the current state of research in the field, and what we might expect from it in the future.