American Philosophical Society
Member History

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209. Neurobiology[X]
1Name:  Dr. Richard F. Thompson
 Institution:  University of Southern California
 Year Elected:  1999
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  209. Neurobiology
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1930
 Death Date:  September 16, 2014
Richard Thompson received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He was a professor at the University of Oregon School of Medicine from 1959-67 and a professor at the University of California, Irvine from 1967-73 and 1975-80. He was then professor, Karl Lashley's Chair, at Harvard University from 1973-75 and the Bing Professor of Human Biology and Psychology at Stanford University from 1980-87. He then became the Keck Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences and Director of the Neurosciences Program at the University of Southern California. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association and the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists. He received the 2010 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement from the American Psychological Foundation. He was the author of Foundations of Physiological Psychology (1967); (with others) Psychology (1971); and Introduction to Physiological Psychology (1975). Dr. Thompson served on the council of the Society for Neuroscience and as president of the American Psychological Society. He devoted his life to the study of brain substrates of behavior. His text, Foundations of Physiological Psychology, was a landmark in the development of modern behavioral neuroscience, as was his later founding and editing of the APA journal, Behavioral Neuroscience. Inspired by Karl Lashley's "search for the engram," his research was focused on neural mechanisms of learning and memory, initially in the now classic work with W.A. Spencer on habituation. Dr. Thompson and his students utilized basic associative learning in mammals, characterizing processes of memory formation in two brain structures: hippocampus and cerebellum. They appear to have localized one form of memory trace to the cerebellum, thus coming full circle to Lashley's initial quest. Dr. Thompson was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1999 and was awarded the Society's Karl Spencer Lashley Award in 2007 "In recognition of his distinguished contributions to understanding the brain substrates of learning and memory. Specifically, through his meticulous and diligent application of the eyeblink classical conditioning paradigm, Thompson discovered the essential role of the deep cerebellar nuclei, as an essential component of classically conditioned procedural memory formation, and that plasticity within the synapses of these nuclei represent the long-elusive memory trace that Lashley had sought." Richard Thompson died September 16, 2014, at age 84.
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