Professor Peter Somogyi FRS

Contributions to Neuroscience

Peter Somogyi has pioneered the spatial and temporal dissection of synaptic circuits in the brain, and in particular the cerebral cortex. He has discovered and named several cortical neurons, such as the axo-axonic cell and the hippocampal bistratified cell, and established their synaptic connections, molecular structure and physiological action. He explored the molecular constituents and temporal dynamics of cortical neurons in the context of their function in the network. His vision that explanations of normal and pathological events in the brain can only come from the rigorous definition of the neuronal circuits that underlie these events has led to the discovery of novel principles of neuronal organisation in the basal ganglia the cerebellum the neocortex and the hippocampus. Somogyi has pioneered novel approaches to the study of the central nervous system and developed innovative methods adopted by others internationally, and have contributed to the wider development of neuroscience as a discipline. For example, he has pioneered quantitative receptor localisation in cells of the brain with a 20 nm accuracy using high-resolution electron microscopic immunolabelling, and discovered the compartmentalised subsynaptic location of different classes of neurotransmitter receptors.

He and his colleagues achieved the recording of the timing of action potentials in vivo of neurons defined in synaptic and molecular terms as specific links in neuronal assemblies. In his recent work with Thomas Klausberger, they discovered an unsuspected temporal division of labour amongst GABAergic hippocampal neurons by recording them in several brain states in vivo and through unequivocal molecular and microscopic identification. In general, Somogyi's work has demonstrated how a co-operative division of labour in time and space between distinct types of neuron underlies the processing power of the cortex.

Somogyi has demonstrated how molecules, synapses and cells serve the precise delivery of action in time. He has consistently pursued a systems approach to explanations of the brain. His exploration of complex neuronal networks has bridged the molecular, synaptic and network levels of organisation, translating his vision to explicit definition of how and where information processing takes place. He has summed up his work, as defining the chronocircuitry of the cerebral cortex. In addition to his personal scientific contribution, Somogyi has also trained outstanding scientists now working worldwide. Some of his pupils have become world leaders in their own right. The Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit under his directorship continues to play a pathfinder role in pioneering the explanation of neuronal circuits of the brain.