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professor Peter Magill

Deputy Director MRC BNDU and MRC Programme Leader

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When did you first get interested in the brain?

During a research placement abroad, to which I was somewhat randomly assigned as part of my undergraduate degree. I spent 6 months happily staring at (quantifying) receptor binding in thousands of images of mouse brains. After that, I was hooked. Neuroscience was for me, and I wanted to know more. I still believe that to fully appreciate the complexities of the brain, then one should take time to carefully observe its structure.

Who has inspired you during your career?

I have been inspired by many people; my wife, my colleagues and mentors, my biology and chemistry teachers at the local comprehensive school. Pretty much anyone who is good at their job.

What has been the most important paper in your area in the last 12 months?

It would be premature to say. The most important papers will stand the test of time, but 12 months is too soon. It is imperative to question dogma, to take a second look without preconceptions, to devise an oblique approach. The papers with most potential have done just that.

What is the next exciting breakthrough in your field going to be?

Tricky. I can reveal that Plan A is for the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit to contribute to it! There is still enormous scope for maturing the field’s knowledge of how neurons in the intact brain work together in ‘real time’, and then leveraging this knowledge for new and improved treatments for brain disorders.

What do you do outside the lab?

Mostly lark about with my family, with activities geared towards exhausting my energetic young son.

What’s your favourite film/book/music?

Science fiction movies (of questionable quality) and 80’s electronic music (of questionable quality) are perennial favourites. The best book I have read recently is “The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science”. Fascinating stories. All of today’s researchers stand on the shoulders of giants. Von Humboldt was one of those giants.