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REF NO.: 61
SUBJECT: Memorial education was foundation for research into memory function
DATE: Oct. 27
For Memorial graduate John Huxter, B.Sc.'91 M.Sc.'99, the hippocampus is a bold new frontier for groundbreaking research. His work in this area of the brain related to memory may help to understand and perhaps even lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders that afflict memory.
Conducted at University College London in the UK, the results of Mr. Huxter's research are published in this week's issue of the premier science journal Nature.
In the journal, Mr. Huxter, research associate in the anatomy department at Bristol University, suggests that the computational power of the brain is greater than previously thought. Contrary to recent predictions, Mr. Huxter and a team of scientists at Bristol University and University College London have demonstrated that in rats the rate and timing of brain cell firing are independent of each other. Mr. Huxter's findings show how single cells in the brain can represent more than one experience at the same time - such as where you are and what you are doing. These results could lead to a greater understanding of how the brain processes memories.
"This finding tells us once again that the brain is more complex than a switchboard or network of on/off switches," explained Dr. David Schneider, Memorial's associate dean of science. "This complexity can only be unraveled by adroit use of the experimental methods Mr. Huxter learned at Memorial."
The research was funded in part by Mr. Huxter's 1998 Rothermere fellowship from Memorial University of Newfoundland - valued at $15,500 a year. It was also at Memorial that Mr. Huxter developed his top-class research capabilities completing both an undergraduate and masters degree with the faculty of science.
Asked about the significance of the discovery, John Huxter said, "Our findings suggest that individual brain cells can represent different types of information at the same time. This is very important for understanding how the brain codes information in parts of the brain crucial to event memory and memory disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."
The president of Memorial University, Dr. Axel Meisen congratulated Mr. Huxter for his remarkable work. "We are indeed proud that Memorial University provided Mr. Huxter with the education and research experience upon which this world-class discovery is founded. I am doubly proud that Memorial's Rothermere fellowship provided financial support for Mr. Huxter during his research."
Dr. Meisen went on to say that this fellowship has also enabled one of our own to make a truly valuable contribution to science. He added that donors who would like to follow Lord Rothermere's example and set up a similar fellowship to see others succeed, can invest their money with confidence in scholarships at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Memorial's Rothermere Foundation fellowships include an annual grant of $15,500, plus college fees and return airfare from the province to the UK. They are intended to encourage students who have taken their first degree at Memorial to pursue a higher degree at a university of their choice in the United Kingdom. The Rothermere Fellowships Trust, on the recommendation of the president of Memorial University of Newfoundland, grants these awards.
Candidates must complete a bachelor's degree at Memorial and have completed or be about to complete a master's degree either at Memorial or at another university in North America.
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