The Memory Men: Meet the three Brit winners of The Brain Prize

Graham Collingridge, Richard Morris, and Timothy Bliss. Credit: The Brain Prize

One of the biggest prizes in science has been awarded to three British neuroscientists who have helped us understand how we form memories.

The Brain Prize, known as the "Nobel" of neuroscience and worth €1 million will be shared between Professors Tim Bliss, Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris.

It's the first time the award has been given to a team who are all based in the UK.

Working separately in London, Bristol and Edinburgh, they have managed to reveal some of the basic mechanisms behind how we learn and remember.

Driven by curiosity about how we store memories, the trio has shed new light on the way nerve connections - or synapses - in the the brain can change in response to our experiences.

That process, called long-term potentiation or LTP, underpins the brains "plasticity" - its remarkable ability to reorganize itself after damage such as a stroke.

LTP works by permanently strengthening the synapses between two neurons by repeatedly stimulating them.

Because many brain disorders are thought to be related to disruption in the process it could guide the way we treat autism, schizophrenia, dementia and chronic pain for example.

Professor Richard Morris, from the University of Edinburgh said:

I think what we are already learning from the discovery of the various drugs that can control LTP is that we can develop tools with which we can interact with memory.

In terms of weakening it to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or strengthening it, perhaps in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease"

– Professor Richard Morris, University of Edinburgh

Altering our memories may sound like something out of a science-fiction film, but the winners' work in understanding the mechanisms of learning and recall should help us address some of the brains most feared conditions.