Graham Collingridge

The brains behind it all

If memories form the foundation of who we are, then neuroscientist Graham Collingridge is showing us the building blocks of that base and how they may be eroded by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as mental illness.

By Michael Robin

Collingridge, based at the University of Toronto, is keynote speaker at the Neuroscience at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) conference on June 7, which will also highlight some of the leading work in the field in the province.

This year, Collingridge shared the $1.5 million Brain Prize, regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for neuroscientists, with two colleagues in the UK for their work in describing a brain mechanism called “long-term potentiation,” or LTP.

Essentially, LTP works by strengthening connections among neurons in the brain. The more traffic, the stronger the connection – that is, the more deeply rooted the memory, or more confident and smooth the learned skill.

A release from the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation in Denmark, who funds the Brain Prize, had high praise for the work.

“Their discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of how memories are formed, retained and lost.”

U of S pharmacology researcher Changiz Taghibiglou and Alzheimer’s researcher Darrell Mousseau are organizing the U of S conference. They explained that Collingridge’s work has exciting implications both in understanding memory and potential avenues to explore new treatments for dementia.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have a neuroscientist of Dr. Collingridge’s stature come to speak here,” Taghibiglou said, explaining that Brain Prize recipients are typically in inundated with invitations.

“This is an exciting opportunity for ourselves and our colleagues here at the U of S,” Mousseau said. “We’re looking forward to hearing Dr. Collingridge’s ideas and having a chance to swap ideas with one of the best in the world.”

More information on the conference is available on the U of S Neuroscience Research Cluster web page, as is a conference agenda.