Inaugural Lecture by Professor Jack Mellor
School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock's Close, Bristol, BS8 1TS
Our memories are fundamental to who we are as individuals, capturing our most important moments. They also enable us to adapt our behaviour by learning from past experiences. This helps us to predict future events and make decisions based on these expectations. But memories can also be fickle and unreliable - we do not possess photographic memories and instead rely on a system that prioritises important information and facilitates memory updates.
Several decades of research have revealed some of the fundamental mechanisms that encode memories in the brain. Principle amongst these is adaptation of synaptic strength which controls neuronal communication and shapes network activity. Recent insights from theoretical and experimental neuroscience also suggest that these mechanisms explain many aspects of memory such as its selectivity and adaptability.