Thursday, 11 February 2010, 11:00 CNR Seminar Room, EMBL Monterotondo

Colin Blakemore, University of Oxford

What role should science play in government?

Colin Blakemore studied Medical Sciences in Cambridge and completed a PhD in Physiological Optics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968. From 1968-79 has was a Demonstrator and then Lecturer in Physiology at Cambridge, and was also Director of Medical Studies at Downing College. From 1976-9 he held the Royal Society Locke Research Fellowship. In 1979 he was appointed Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford and Professorial Fellow at Magdalen College, and from 1996-2003 he directed the Oxford Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience. Between 2003 and 2007 he was on leave while serving as Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council. He held the title of Waynflete Professor until 2007 and is now Professor of Neuroscience. He also holds Professorships at the University of Warwick and the Duke University – National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, where he is Chairman of Singapore’s Neuroscience Research Partnership.

Colin is a Fellow of the Royal Society (since 1992) and the Academy of Medical Sciences. He is an Honorary FRCP and an Honorary Fellow or Honorary Member of the Institute of Biology, British Pharmacological Society, Physiological Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, British Association for the Advancement of Science and Cambridge Union. He is a member of Academia Europaea and a Foreign Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Indian Academy of Neurosciences and the National Academy of Sciences of India. He has been President of the British Association, the British Neuroscience Association, the Physiological Society and the Biosciences Federation. He is Chairman of the Food Standard Agency’s General Advisory Committee on Science and the Health Protection Agency’s Electromagnetic Fields Discussion Group.

Colin has been actively involved in the public communication of science for more than 30 years. He is a frequent broadcaster on radio and television, has published a number of books about science for a general readership, and he writes for the national and international media. He works with and for the Science Museum, London, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, the Cheltenham Festival of Science, the Science Media Centre and Sense about Science. He is President of the Association of British Science Writers. He is an active supporter of several medical charities, and is President of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Vice-Chairman of SANE and Vice President of the Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Association. He is Chairman of Understanding Animal Research. He is a Commissioner of the UK Drug Policy Commission and has helped to develop new evidence-based methods to define the harm of drugs of potential abuse.

Colin’s research has been concerned with many aspects of vision, the early development of the brain and plasticity of the cerebral cortex. His current interests lie in three areas. First, with Dr Irina Bystron, he is studying the earliest stages of formation of the human cerebral cortex, using immunocytochemical methods and techniques for tracing the outgrowth of axons to examine the proliferation of neural stem cells, the production, migration and differentiation of cortical neurons, as well the formation of connections into and out of the developing cortex. One aim of this research is to define the developmental errors that underlie cognitive disorders, such as autism, dyslexia and schizophrenia. Colin’s second area of current research, together with Drs Kai Thilo and Meng Liang, uses techniques for imaging activity in the living adult human brain to examine the capacity of sensory areas of the cortex to reorganize their activity during selective attention, during the integration of information from different sensory systems and after the onset of blindness. And third, he continues to work in collaboration with Dr Tony Hannan (now at the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne, Australia) on the cellular pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease.