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Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield

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The Baroness Greenfield
Susan Adele Greenfield

(1950-10-01) 1 October 1950 (age 73)
Chiswick, London, England[2]
Alma materSt Hilda's College, Oxford
(m. 1991; div. 2005)
AwardsCBE, Knight of the Legion of Honour
Scientific career
ThesisOrigins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid (1977)
Doctoral advisorAnthony David Smith[1]

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE, FRCP[4] (born 1 October 1950) is an English scientist, writer, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords (since 2001). Her research has focused on the treatment of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. She is also interested in the neuroscience of consciousness[5] and the impact of technology on the brain.[6]

Greenfield is a senior research fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford;[7] she was a professor of Synaptic Pharmacology.[citation needed]

Greenfield was chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh between 2005 and 2013.[8] From 1998 to 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.[9] In September 2013, she co-founded the biotech company Neuro-bio Ltd, where she is chief executive officer.



Greenfield's mother, Doris (née Thorp), was a dancer and a Christian, and her father, Reginald Myer Greenfield, was an electrician who was the son of a Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrant from Austria; her grandmothers never spoke and she said of them, "the prejudice was equally vociferous on both sides".[10][11]

She attended the Godolphin and Latymer School, where she took A levels in Latin, Greek and ancient history, and maths. The first member of her immediate family to go to university, she was initially admitted to St Hilda's College to read Philosophy and Psychology, but changed course and graduated with a first-class degree in experimental psychology.[11][12] As a Senior Scholar at St Hugh's College, Oxford,[13] she completed her DPhil degree in 1977 under the supervision of Anthony David Smith on the Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid.[1]

She then held a junior research fellowship at Green College, Oxford between 1981 and 1984.[14]


Greenfield at Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament; 2013

Greenfield's research is focused on brain physiology, particularly on the brain mechanisms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. She is also known for her role in popularising science. Greenfield has written several books about the brain, regularly gives public lectures, and appears on radio and television.[15]

Since 1976, Greenfield has published approximately 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including studies on brain mechanisms involved in addiction and reward,[16][17][18][19][20] relating to dopamine systems and other neurochemicals.[21][22] She investigated the brain mechanisms underlying attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)[22][23] as well as the impact of environmental enrichment.[24]

In 1994, she was the first woman to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, then sponsored by the BBC. Her lectures were titled "Journey to the centre of the brain".[25] She was appointed Director of the Royal Institution in 1998.[26] The post was abolished in 2010.[27] The Royal Institution had found itself in a financial crisis following a £22m development programme led by Greenfield and the Board. The project ended £3 million in debt.[28][29] Greenfield subsequently announced that she would be taking her employers to an employment tribunal and her claim would include discrimination.[30] The case was settled out of court.[31]

Greenfield's two main positions at Oxford were Tutorial Fellow in Medicine at Lincoln College Oxford,[7] and Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology.[citation needed] Between 1995 and 1999, she gave public lectures as Gresham Professor of Physic in London. Greenfield was Adelaide's Thinker in Residence for 2004 and 2005.[32]

As a result of her recommendations,[citation needed] South Australian Premier Mike Rann made a major funding commitment, backed by the State and Federal Governments and the private sector, to establish the Royal Institution of Australia and the Australian Science Media Centre in Adelaide.[33]

She has explored the relevance of neuroscience knowledge to education[34] and has used the phrase "mind change",[35] an umbrella term comparable to "climate change", encompassing diverse issues involved in the impact of the 21st-century environment on the brain.[36]

In 2013 she co-founded the biotech company Neuro-Bio Ltd which develops diagnostic tests and therapeutics for Alzheimer's disease. The company has found that the C terminus of acetylcholinesterase can be cleaved and that the resulting peptide can kill neurons; the company has also found that a cyclic peptide analogue could prevent that neuronal death.[37] The company raised around $4 million in 2017.[38]


Greenfield in 2013

Greenfield sits in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, having no formal political affiliation.[39] Records of Greenfield's activity in the House of Lords indicate abstention on a range of issues.[40] She has spoken on a variety of topics,[41] including education, drugs, and economic empowerment for women.[42]



In 2013, Greenfield published a dystopian science-fiction novel, 2121: A Tale from the Next Century, telling the story of videogame-playing hedonists and their conflict with "Neo-Puritans".[43]

In 2014, Greenfield published a popular science book called Mind Change: How Digital Technologies are Leaving their Mark on our Brains, describing her ideas about the impact of digital technology.[44]

Impact of digital technology controversy


Greenfield has expressed concerns that internet usage may modify the brain structures of youngsters.[45][46]

She has had controversy surrounding her opinions on the relationship between technology use and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She originally linked the increase in Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis to increased screen-time in a 2011 New Scientist article,.[47] She defended this claim in 2014, in an interview with Stephen Sackur, on the BBC show HARDTalk, in which she claims to have collated 500 articles "in support of the possible problematic effects" of technology-use.[48]

She noted that Public Health England had related social networking and multiplayer online games to "lower levels of wellbeing", and believed that evidence pointed to a "dose response" relationship, "where each additional hour of viewing increases the likelihood of experiencing socio-emotional problems".[49] She believed this raised questions about where to draw the boundaries between beneficial and harmful use of such technology, saying that "it would be surprising if many hours per day of screen activity did not influence this neuroplasticity".[50]



As of 2016, Greenfield has 32 honorary degrees;[51] has received awards including the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Prize. She has been elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians[52] and the London Science Museum.[53]

In 2006 she was made an Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association[54] and was the Honorary Australian of the Year.[55]

In January 2000, Greenfield received a CBE[56] for her contribution to the public understanding of science.[4] Later that year, she was named Woman of the Year[57] by The Observer. In 2001, she became a Life Peer under the House of Lords Appointments Commission system,[58] as Baroness Greenfield, of Ot Moor, Oxfordshire.[4][59] Like the other people's peers she was self-nominated.[58]

In 2003, she was appointed a Knight of the Legion of Honour by the French Government.[52] In 2010 she was awarded the Australian Society for Medical Research Medal.[60] She received the British Inspiration award for Science and Technology in 2010.[61]



She is a patron of Alzheimer's Research UK[62] and of Dignity in Dying.[63] She is a founder and trustee of the charity Science for Humanity, a network of scientists, researchers and technologists that collaborates with not-for-profit organisations to create practical solutions to the everyday problems of developing communities.[64]

Personal life


Greenfield was married to the University of Oxford professor Peter Atkins from 1991 until their divorce in 2005.[3]


  • Greenfield, Susan (1995). Journey to the Centers of the Mind: Toward a Science of Consciousness. San Francisco, California: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2723-4.
  • Greenfield, Susan (1997). The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (Science Masters Series). New York: Basic Books. pp. 160 pages. ISBN 0-465-00726-0.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2002). The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science). London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 272 pages. ISBN 0-14-100720-6.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2003). Tomorrow's People: How 21st Century Technology is Changing the Way we Think and Feel. London, UK: Allen Lane. pp. 304 pages. ISBN 0-7139-9631-5.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2006). Inside the Body. London, UK: Cassell Illustrated. pp. 288 pages. ISBN 1-84403-500-X.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2008). ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century. London, UK: Sceptre. pp. 320 pages. ISBN 978-0-340-93600-9.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2011). You and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity. London, UK: Notting Hill Editions. ISBN 978-1907903342.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2013). 2121: A Tale from the Next Century. London, UK: Head of Zeus.
  • Greenfield, Susan (2014). Mind Change: How 21st Century Technology is leaving its mark on the brain. London, UK: Random House.
  • Greenfield, Susan. A Day in the Life of the Brain: The Neuroscience of Consciousness from Dawn till Dusk.


  1. ^ a b Greenfield, Susan (1977). Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford.
  2. ^ Bell, Matthew (29 June 2013). "Susan Greenfield: After the science, the fiction". The Independent. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b Moreton, Cole (11 May 2008). "Susan Greenfield: The girl with all the brains". The Independent on Sunday. London, UK. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b c House of Lords (2001). "Minutes and Order Paper – Minutes of Proceedings". UK Parliament House of Lords. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
  5. ^ Private Life of the Brain (2000), susangreenfield.com; accessed 5 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Screen Technologies". susangreenfield.com. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  7. ^ a b University of Oxford> Department of Pharmacology> Baroness Susan Greenfield Archived 12 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 12 June 2015.
  8. ^ Ford, Liz (31 January 2006). "Greenfield to be made Heriot-Watt chancellor". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  9. ^ The Times (9 January 2010). "Baroness Greenfield loses her job in Royal Institution shake-up". The Times. London, UK. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  10. ^ Franks, Lynne (24 November 2011). "Interview: Susan Greenfield". The Jewish Chonicle.
  11. ^ a b Radford, Tim (30 April 2004). "The Guardian profile: Susan Greenfield". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  12. ^ Bell, Matthew (30 June 2013). "Susan Greenfield: After the science, the fiction". The Independent on Sunday. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022.
  13. ^ British Council on Science (2007). "Baroness Greenfield". British Council on Science. Archived from the original on 28 August 2007. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
  14. ^ Radford, Tim (30 April 2004). "The Guardian profile: Susan Greenfield". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  15. ^ Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield at IMDb
  16. ^ Cragg, S.J.; Hille, C. J.; Greenfield, S.A. (2002). "Functional domains in dorsal striatum of the nonhuman primate are defined by the dynamic behavior of dopamine". The Journal of Neuroscience. 22 (13): 5705–12. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.22-13-05705.2002. PMC 6758186. PMID 12097522.
  17. ^ Cragg, S.J.; Hille, C.J.; Greenfield, S.A. (2000). "Dopamine release and uptake dynamics within nonhuman primate striatum in vitro". The Journal of Neuroscience. 20 (21): 8209–17. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-21-08209.2000. PMC 6772736. PMID 11050144.
  18. ^ Cragg, S.J.; Clarke, D.J.; Greenfield, S.A. (2000). "Real-Time Dynamics of Dopamine Released from Neuronal Transplants in Experimental Parkinson's Disease". Experimental Neurology. 164 (1): 145–53. doi:10.1006/exnr.2000.7420. PMID 10877925. S2CID 20654732.
  19. ^ Cragg, S.J.; Holmes, C.; Hawkey, C.R.; Greenfield, S.A. (1998). "Dopamine is released spontaneously from developing midbrain neurons in organotypic culture". Neuroscience. 84 (2): 325–30. doi:10.1016/s0306-4522(97)00657-x. PMID 9539208. S2CID 25909469.
  20. ^ Dickie, B.G.; Holmes, C.; Greenfield, S.A. (1996). "Neurotoxic and neurotrophic effects of chronic N-methyl-D-aspartate exposure upon mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in organotypic culture". Neuroscience. 72 (3): 731–41. doi:10.1016/0306-4522(95)00611-7. PMID 9157319. S2CID 23225163.
  21. ^ Threlfell, S.; Greenfield, S.A.; Cragg, S.J. (2010). "5-HT1B receptor regulation of serotonin (5-HT) release by endogenous 5-HT in the substantia nigra". Neuroscience. 165 (1): 212–20. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.10.005. PMID 19819310. S2CID 25730390.
  22. ^ a b Threlfell, S.; Exley, R.; Cragg, S.J.; Greenfield, S.A. (2008). "Constitutive histamine H2receptor activity regulates serotonin release in the substantia nigra". Journal of Neurochemistry. 107 (3): 745–55. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05646.x. PMID 18761715. S2CID 39736774.
  23. ^ Dommett, E.J.; Henderson, E.L.; Westwell, M.S.; Greenfield, S.A. (2008). "Methylphenidate amplifies long-term plasticity in the hippocampus via noradrenergic mechanisms". Learning & Memory. 15 (8): 580–86. doi:10.1101/Lm.1092608. PMID 18685149.
  24. ^ Devonshire, I.M.; Dommett, E.J.; Grandy, T. H.; Halliday, A.C.; Greenfield, S.A. (2010). "Environmental enrichment differentially modifies specific components of sensory-evoked activity in rat barrel cortex as revealed by simultaneous electrophysiological recordings and optical imaging in vivo". Neuroscience. 170 (2): 662–69. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.07.029. PMID 20654700. S2CID 23618724.
  25. ^ RI. "List of Lecturers" (PDF). RI. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  26. ^ Profile Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, rigb.org; accessed 5 April 2016.
  27. ^ Gammell, Caroline; Alleyne, Richard (12 January 2010). "Baroness Greenfield's redundancy 'only way to get rid of her'". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010.
  28. ^ "Baroness Greenfield's redundancy 'only way to get rid of her'". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  29. ^ Robin McKie and Rajeev Syal (10 January 2010). "Top scientist Susan Greenfield told to quit her job – and her flat". The Observer. Theguardian.com. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  30. ^ BBC (9 January 2010). "Royal Institution former chief suing for discrimination". BBC. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  31. ^ "Baroness Greenfield drops legal action against the Royal Institution". Civilsociety.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  32. ^ "Adelaide Thinkers in Residence – Susan Greenfield". Govt. of South Australia. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  33. ^ $15m to form Royal Institution of Australia The Advertiser, 15 May 2009; accessed 10 September 2014.
  34. ^ Dommett, E.J.; Devonshire, I.M.; Plateau, C.R.; Westwell, M.S.; Greenfield, S. A. (2010). "From Scientific Theory to Classroom Practice". The Neuroscientist. 17 (4): 382–88. doi:10.1177/1073858409356111. PMID 20484219. S2CID 38863068.
  35. ^ Khalili, Mustafa; Smith, Elliot; Oltermann, Philip (15 August 2011). "Susan Greenfield: "Mind change is 'an issue that's as important and as unprecedented as climate change"". Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  36. ^ Greenfield, Susan. "You And Me: The Neuroscience of Identity". Notting Hill Editions. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  37. ^ Koch, Selina; Zipkin, Mark (30 June 2016). "Why Neuro-Bio thinks it's time to revisit the role of AChE in AD". BioCentury.
  38. ^ Ross, John (17 March 2017). "Commercialising research: the deal as learning curve". The Australian.
  39. ^ "Baroness Greenfield". UK Parliament website. Archived from the original on 12 June 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  40. ^ "Baroness Greenfield profile at". TheyWorkForYou. mySociety. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  41. ^ "Baroness Susan Greenfield; House of Lords debates". www.susangreenfield.com. Archived from the original on 15 December 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  42. ^ "Lords Hansard text for 05 Mar 2015 (pt 0001)". www.publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  43. ^ Little, Reg (9 August 2013). "Susan Greenfield: Tale of a terrible reckoning". Oxford Times.
  44. ^ Robbins, Martin. "Mind Change: Susan Greenfield has a Big Idea, but What is it?". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  45. ^ "Social websites: bad for kids' brains?". BBC Newsnight. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  46. ^ Arthur, Charles (25 February 2009). "Age Concern backs social networks but Ben Goldacre's blood pressure still rising". guardian.co.uk. London, UK. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  47. ^ "Susan Greenfield: Living online is changing our brains".
  48. ^ "BBC News Channel – HARDtalk, Professor Susan Greenfield – Neuroscientist".
  49. ^ "Main heading". data.parliament.uk. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  50. ^ Bell, Vaughan; Bishop, Dorothy V.M.; Przybylski, Andrew K. (12 August 2015). "The debate over digital technology and young people". The BMJ. 351: h3064. doi:10.1136/bmj.h3064. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 26268481. S2CID 20209855.
  51. ^ Profile, theaustralian.com.au; accessed 5 April 2016.
  52. ^ a b "Bio on the Royal Institution website". Rigb.org. Archived from the original on 11 February 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  53. ^ "Fellows – About us". Science Museum. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  54. ^ "Current Honorary Fellows". British Science Association. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  55. ^ "Greenfield, Baroness, (Susan Adele Greenfield) (born 1 Oct. 1950)", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u18067, ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4, retrieved 7 December 2019
  56. ^ "No. 55710". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1999. p. 9.
  57. ^ Anthony, Andrew (31 December 2000). "Your Woman of the Year". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  58. ^ a b Perkins, Anne (27 April 2001). "The people's peers: seven knights, a lord's wife and three professors". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  59. ^ "No. 56252". The London Gazette. 21 June 2001. p. 7343.
  60. ^ "MRW". asmr.org.au. Australian Society for Medical Research. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  61. ^ "2010 Awards". British Inspiration Awards. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  62. ^ "Patrons". Alzheimer's Research UK. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  63. ^ "Brian Pretty and Zoe Wanamaker among new patrons for Dignity in Dying (Jan 23) – Dignity in Dying". Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  64. ^ "Global Risk Register – About Science for Humanity". globalriskregister.org. Retrieved 17 September 2015.

Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by
Cultural offices
Preceded by Director of the Royal Institution
Succeeded by
Post abolished