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The science of memories

20 October 2008

How do our brains form memories – and how do we recall old ones?

The science of mapping memory will be discussed by Professor Eleanor A Maguire in this year’s Rosalind Franklin Prize Lecture next month.

Professor Maguire, Wellcome Trust senior Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Neurology’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimagining, will tackle one of the biggest questions in cognitive neuroscience: what memory, navigation, imagination and thinking about the future have in common.

Historically, research in this area has focused on the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain’s temporal lobes.  Damage to this structure has a devastating impact on the ability to form new memories and compromises our recollection of the past.
Even after decades of research, significant gaps in our knowledge remain, and we still don’t know how exactly activity across millions of hippocampal neurons supports a person’s lifetime of experiences. 

Recently, scientists have discovered that the hippocampus does not act alone in supporting memory and have delineated a distribute network of brain regions involved in supporting memories of our personal experiences.
Intriguingly, these memory areas overlap considerably with those required for spatial navigation, and also imagining fictitious and future experiences.

So how do key thought processes map onto specific brain areas such as the hippocampus?

Professor Maguire is this year’s recipient of the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award for her scientific achievements in cognitive neuroscience, her suitability as a role model and her proposals to promote women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Her lecture takes place at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace. Attendance is free and there is no need to book.

The Royal Society will webcast the lecture live. It will continue to be available within 48 hours.