Tomás originally graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2005 with a BA in genetics. He completed his Ph.D. in molecular neuroscience with Seth Grant at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in 2009. His thesis work was supported by a Wellcome Trust PhD Fellowship. Following a year as Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University Cambridge, he relocated to the USA to work as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the group of Susumu Tonegawa (Nobel Laureate, 1987) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (2010-2016). At MIT he was centrally involved in the development of novel genetic methods that allow for the labelling and manipulation of specific memory engrams in the rodent brain. This work was supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and RIKEN Brain Sciences Institute, Japan. He started his research group in 2016 at Trinity College Dublin, where he is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience. Tomás also holds a joint faculty position at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research is supported by a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant, a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (PIYRA), and a Jacobs Foundation Fellowship. Outside of science, Tomás’ interests include travel, reading, philosophy, and politics.
The Ryan Lab investigates the fundamental neuroscience of memory. We employ a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach in order to understand how memories are encoded, stored, and retrieved in the brain. To this end we utilize a wide range of experimental techniques including optogenetics, engram cell labelling, mouse transgenics, pharmacology, electrophysiology, in vivo calcium imaging, and behavioural analysis. The central question we aim to address is how is memory coded in the brain as information? At the most fundamental level, memory is information that is encoded into the brain through a process of learning. We refer to the specific change in the brain that accounts for a particular learned piece of information as a memory engram. Memory engrams must exist somewhere in our brains and the scientific challenge is firstly to find them and secondly to understand how they function. Genetic techniques have allowed us to identify subsets of cells that are activated by particular experiences, and manipulation of these cells has demonstrated that they contribute to the representation of specific memories. These cells also undergo various forms of physiological and biological plasticity (change) due to learning, which may account for information storage. Our group focuses on understanding how various forms of neuronal plasticity contribute essentially to memory information coding and functionality.