Tim Tully on Research Highlights: A transcription Factor’s Regulation of Memory (1)
  Tim Tully     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Aug 2003

Well, I guess it has to be the 1994, 1995 papers on CREB. That was an exciting thing to do, and interpreting the data was particularly fun. The results, enhancing memory by manipulating CREB were so specific at the behavioral level that it really smacked of a true molecular mechanism to control memory formation. It’s really one of the few examples of a gene and its’ functions being so closely related to a very specific aspect of how memory forms. It’s not more memory, it’s not less memory. It’s allowing long-term memory to form with less practice. And that’s very specific.

That notion of how CREB regulates long-term memory, I think, and we still have not proven, is related to the differential activation of CREB-activator with CREB-repressor. That model of differential activation of two opposing molecules: an activator and a repressor was something that I thought of in the fifth inning of my younger son’s little league baseball game on a nice, sunny summer evening with the sun setting in front of me. Instead of paying attention to Skyler, my son, and in fact, Mike Wigler’s son, Ben I was looking off into the distance coming up with a functional model for how CREB could be controlling these important behavioral parameters in memory. And I’ll always remember that setting sun.

Tim Tully is a molecular geneticist, interested in finding the genetic and biological basis of memory in order to better identify pharmacological and behavioral treatments for memory loss. In 1981, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Tully joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory staff in 1991 to work on discovering genes involved with memory. He became the St. Giles Foundation Professor of Neuroscience and led the Drosophila learning and memory program. In 1998 he founded Helicon Therapeutics, Inc., a development-stage biotechnology firm that works on new therapies for memory loss and other cognition disorders. In June, 2007, Tully left Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to become Helicon's Acting Chief Scientific Officer, and assume a key role in the Michigan-based Dart Foundation as it expands its interest in funding neuroscience research.

His work on the transcriptional factor CREB gave way to the first experimental demonstration of enhanced memory formation in genetically engineered animals. Tully works to identify genes involved with long-term memory formation. Tully has determined that by the regulation of gene expression, new, long-term memories can be formed due to the growth of new synapses.