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UCL Division of Biosciences

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Dr Thomas Wills

Dr Thomas Wills

Associate Professor

Cell & Developmental Biology

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2003

Research summary

How are memories encoded in the brain? What makes some memories fade and other last a lifetime? Why can we not retain our memories of early childhood? In our lab, we investigate these questions by looking at the activity of neural circuits in the hippocampus and connected brain regions during memory formation and retrieval. 

The hippocampus creates episodic memories – defined as memories of events, as well as where and when they occurred. Hippocampus neurons create neural ‘maps’ of places that animals visit, by tuning their firing to an animal’s current position or orientation in space (examples of these neurons include place cells, grid cells and head direction cells). These neural maps are the basis for remembering where events occurred, are necessary if we wish to navigate back to places we remember.  Our research aims to understand how these neural maps support memories, with a special interest in how they emerge during post-natal development. A distinctive feature of human development is the loss of all memories preceding approximately 3 years of age (infantile amnesia): can we understand from studying hippocampal networks why this occurs? To address these problems, we use cutting edge technologies to both visualise and manipulate neural circuits during behaviour (tetrode recording, neuropixels silicon probes, 2-photon microscopy and opto- and chemo-genetics).

Biography

2013-present -  Lecturer, Dept. of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL.

2011-present - Royal Society University Research Fellow, Dept. of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL.

2005-2011  - Post-doctoral Research Fellow, UCL.

2005 - Doctoral thesis ‘Attractor Dynamics in the Hippocampal Representation of the Local Environment’, UCL.

2000 - Research Assistant, Laboratory of Dr Tim Bliss, National Institute for Medical Research, London.

1999 - BA Hons Natural Science, Queens’ College, Cambridge University.

Publications