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A British professor who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and medicine on Monday has said that he is ‘concerned’ that British immigration rules were hindering scientists from coming into the country.
Professor John O’Keefe a British-American neuroscientist was awarded the highly coveted prize for his work in identifying brain cells that serve as human ‘GPS’ signals. His study on rats in 1971 discovered what he called ‘place cells’ which are activated when animals are in a certain place. When the same animal moves to a different place, a separate set of cells are activated leading O’ Keefe to believe that the cells situated in the hippocampus in the brain were actually mapping out where the animals are and storing the information for future use. Hence, why we can navigate our way around and remember previous places we’ve been to.
It is hoped his study can help scientists researching Alzheimers disease to figure out which cells are affected in the degenerative disease which leads to loss of memory.
The UCL professor said while he was delighted with the award, he was ‘concerned’ that the tightening of immigration rules under the Tory administration was making it difficult to hire and bring some of the best talents into the UK.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor O’ Keefe said, “The immigration rules are a very, very large obstacle.”
“I am very, very acutely aware of what you have to do if you want to bring people into Britain and to get through immigration, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but we should be thinking hard about making Britain a more welcoming place.”
The 75-year-old added that one of the unique things that attracted him to the UK was its diverse culture adding that science as a discipline was a universal was international and urged the Government to make it ‘easier’ for Universities and Colleges to welcome the best talents from all over the world.
“Britain punches way above its weight in science and I think we need to continue to do that and anything that makes it easier to bring scientists in will be very welcome,” said the Professor.