TORONTO — A top Toronto-based neuroscientist is helping to unlock the mysteries of how the mind creates memories.
For decades, Dr. Graham Collingridge has studied the brain closely, down to less than one-thousandth of a millimetre.
“This is where the memories are stored,” he explained enthusiastically while looking at an image.
Collingridge, a neuroscientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, is trying to solve one of the major scientific mysteries of our time — how the mind makes memories.
By studying the brains of rats and mice, he has contributed to the understanding of something called long-term potentiation in the brain, which is the way in which the nerve cells, or neurons, strengthen in response to activity. He has also looked at how drugs can impact the interaction.
“For example, if one of these is over-active, then we can apply a drug which will reduce its activity and cause improvement in their system. and indeed that’s already happened,” he said.
Collingridge’s discoveries have already led to the most widely prescribed drug in the world to help treat mid-stage Alzheimer’s Disease.
Going forward, the same principles can be applied to psychiatric conditions such us schizophrenia or depression.
Collingridge has been awarded the “Brain Prize,” widely regarded as the Nobel Prize for neuroscientists, for his work on understanding memory.
“His contribution has been essential to our current understanding,” said Dr. Kim Krogsgaard with the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation that awards the prize.
Collingridge has done research in Britain and B.C., now he’s come to Toronto because of the unique partnership between the University of Toronto and hospitals.
“Nothing works, to my experience, as well as it does in Toronto,” said Collingridge.
Now the researchers already based with Sinai Health System figure they have snagged their own prize.
“People of Graham’s caliber are very few and far between and so we are incredibly excited to see what he’s got for the future in Toronto,” said Dr. Jim Woodgett, director of research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.
Collingridge said what drives him is seeing the impact of his work on patients.
“If what I can do in any small way can help in the development of new therapeutic agents then that’s very rewarding,” he says.
But Collingridge admits, winning a major award for decoding memory is something he will never forget.