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Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield

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Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield

The Baroness Greenfield
Born Susan Adele Greenfield
(1950-10-01) 1 October 1950
Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater St Hilda's College, Oxford
Thesis Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid (1977)
Doctoral advisor Anthony David Smith[1]
Notable awards


Chevalier Légion d'honneur
Spouse Peter Atkins (m. 1991–2005)[2]
Susan Greenfield's voice
Recorded February 2011 from the BBC Radio 4 programme Four Thought

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE,[3] HonFRCP (born 1 October 1950) is a British scientist, writer, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords. Her research has focused on the treatment of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. She is also interested in the neuroscience of consciousness [4] and the impact of technology on the brain.[5]

Greenfield is Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford University [6] and was Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology. From 2005 to 2012, she was also Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh between 2005 and 2013.[7] From 1998 to 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.[8] In September 2013, she co-founded the biotech company Neuro-bio Ltd, where she is Chief Executive Officer.[9][10]


  • Education 1
  • Career 2
  • Politics 3
  • Books 4
  • Impact of digital technology controversy 5
  • Honours 6
  • Patronage 7
  • Personal life 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


Susan Adele Greenfield was born to a Jewish father[11] and a Christian mother in Hammersmith, London. Her mother, Doris (née Thorp), was a dancer, and her father, Reginald Myer Greenfield, was an electrician.[12]

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 on to university, she was initially admitted to St Hilda's College to read Philosophy, Psychology and Psychiatry, graduated with a first degree in experimental psychology.[12][13] As a Senior Scholar at St Hugh's College, Oxford,[14] 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 - 1984.[15]


Greenfield's research is focused on brain physiology, particularly on the brain mechanisms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, but she is also known as a populariser of science. Greenfield has written a range of books about the brain, regularly gives public lectures, and appears on radio and television.[16]

Since 1976, Greenfield has published some 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including studies on the basic brain mechanisms involved in addiction and reward,[17][18][19][20][21] i.e. relating to dopamine systems and related neurochemicals.[22][23] She investigated the brain mechanisms underlying ADHD[23][24] as well as the impact of environmental enrichment.[25]

In 1994, she was invited to be the first woman to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, then sponsored by the BBC. Her lecture was titled "Journey to the centre of the brain".[26] She was appointed Director of the Royal Institution in 1998,.[27] The post was abolished in 2010.[28] 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.[29][30] Greenfield subsequently announced that she would be taking her employers to an employment tribunal and her claim would include discrimination,[31] but the case was settled out of court.[32]

Greenfield's two main posts at Oxford were as Tutorial Fellow in Medicine at Lincoln College Oxford,[6] and Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology. From 1995 to 1999, she gave public lectures as Gresham Professor of Physic in London. Greenfield was Adelaide's Thinker in Residence for 2004 and 2005.[33] As a result of her recommendations, 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.[34]

She has explored the relevance of neuroscience knowledge to education[35] and has introduced the concept of "mind change",[36] an umbrella term comparable to "climate change", encompassing the diverse issues involved in the impact of the 21st-century environment on the brain.[37]


Baroness Greenfield sits in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, having no formal political affiliation.[38] Records of Baroness Greenfield's activity in the House of Lords indicate abstention on a range of issues.[39] She has spoken on a variety of topics,[40] including education, drugs, and economic empowerment for women.[41]


In 1995 Greenfield published her own theory of consciousness in Journey to the Centres of the Mind (1995), which was developed substantially in The Private Life of the Brain (2000). Her book The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (1997) was followed byTomorrow’s People (2003), which explored human nature and its potential vulnerability in an age of technology. These ideas were expanded in her later book, ID (2009). The theme of unprecedented changes to contemporary human cognition was briefly explored in a monograph You and Me (2011), and was later developed further in an in-depth exploration of the impact of technology on the brain in Mind Change published in 2014 by Random House. A further book A Day in the Life of the Brain is due to be published by Penguin in early 2016.

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".[42]

Impact of digital technology controversy

In press interviews, at public speaking events,[43] as well as in her writing,[44] Greenfield has expressed concerns that modern technology, and in particular social networking sites and video games,[43] may have a significant impact on child development as a factor in autistic-like behaviour.[43][45][46][47] 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".[48] 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".[49]

Greenfield has been criticised for explicitly linking the increase in internet usage to a rise in autism. In an 2015 article in the BMJ, clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell, developmental psychologist Dorothy Bishop and psychologist Andrew Przybylski took Greenfield to task for her statements, writing that Greenfield's notion had "no basis in scientific evidence" and was "entirely implausible in light of what we know of autism as a neurodevelopmental condition". They expressed concern that her work could be misleading to parents.[50]

Greenfield had already been criticised for failing to publish any research into her theories of technology's impact on child development. Ben Goldacre suggested that "A scientist with enduring concerns about a serious widespread risk would normally set out their concerns clearly, to other scientists, in a scientific paper."[43]


Greenfield has 32 honorary degrees,[51] and has received awards including the [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.

In January 2000, Greenfield received the CBE[55] for her contribution to the public understanding of science.[3] Later that year, she was named Woman of the Year by The Observer. In 2001, she became a Life Peer under the via the House of Lords Appointments Commission system,[56] as Baroness Greenfield, of Ot Moor in the County of Oxfordshire.[3][57]

In 2003, she was appointed a [52] In 2010 she was awarded the Australian Society for Medical Research Medal.[58] She also received the British Inspiration award for Science and Technology in 2010.[59]


She is a patron of the Alzheimer's Research UK[60] and of Dignity in Dying.[61] She is a founder and trustee of the charity Science for Humanity, a network of scientists, researchers and technologists that collaborates with non-profits to create practical solutions to the everyday problems of developing communities.[62]

Personal life

Greenfield was married to University of Oxford Professor Peter Atkins from 1991 until their divorce in 2005.[2]


  • Greenfield, Susan (1995). Journey to the Centers of the Mind: Toward a Science of Consciousness. San Francisco, California: W.H. Freeman. pp. 236 pages.  
  • Greenfield, Susan (1997). The Human Brain: A Guided Tour (Science Masters Series). New York: Basic Books. pp. 160 pages.  
  • Greenfield, Susan (2002). The Private Life of the Brain (Penguin Press Science). London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 272 pages.  
  • 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.  
  • Greenfield, Susan (2006). Inside the Body. London, UK: Cassell Illustrated. pp. 288 pages.  
  • Greenfield, Susan (2008). ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century. London, UK: Sceptre. pp. 320 pages.  
  • Greenfield, Susan (2011). You and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity. London, UK: Notting Hill Editions.  
  • 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. 


  1. ^ a b Greenfield, Susan (1977). Origins of acetylcholinesterase in cerebrospinal fluid (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. 
  2. ^ a b Moreton, Cole (11 May 2008). "Susan Greenfield: The girl with all the brains". London: The Independent on Sunday. 
  3. ^ a b c House of Lords (2001). "Minutes and Order Paper – Minutes of Proceedings". UK Parliament House of Lords. Retrieved 27 October 2007. 
  4. ^ Private Life of the Brain (2000)
  5. ^ "Baroness Susan Greenfield | Screen Technologies". Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  6. ^ a b University of Oxford > Department of Pharmacology > Baroness Susan Greenfield Accessed 12 June 2015.
  7. ^ Ford, Liz. "Greenfield to be made Heriot-Watt chancellor". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  8. ^ The Times (9 January 2010). "Baroness Greenfield loses her job in Royal Institution shake-up". London, UK: The Times. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  9. ^ "Team". NeuroBio. Retrieved 2014-02-18. 
  10. ^ Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
  11. ^ "Interview: Susan Greenfield". 24 November 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Radford, Tim (30 April 2004). "The Guardian profile: Susan Greenfield". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  13. ^ Bell, Matthew (30 June 2013). "Susan Greenfield: After the science, the fiction". The Independent on Sunday. 
  14. ^ British Council on Science (2007). "Baroness Greenfield". British Council on Science. Retrieved 27 October 2007. 
  15. ^ Radford, Tim; Editor, Science. "The Guardian profile: Susan Greenfield". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  16. ^ Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield at the Internet Movie Database
  17. ^ 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 : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 22 (13): 5705–12.  
  18. ^ 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 : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 20 (21): 8209–17.  
  19. ^ 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.  
  20. ^ 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.  
  21. ^ 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.  
  22. ^ 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.  
  23. ^ 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.  
  24. ^ 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.  
  25. ^ 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): 662–9.  
  26. ^ RI. "List of Lecturers" (PDF). RI. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  27. ^ profile on Royal Institution website
  28. ^ Gammell, Caroline; Alleyne, Richard (12 January 2010). "'"Baroness Greenfield's redundancy 'only way to get rid of her. The Daily Telegraph (London, UK). 
  29. ^ "'"Baroness Greenfield's redundancy 'only way to get rid of her. Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  30. ^ Robin McKie and Rajeev Syal. "Top scientist Susan Greenfield told to quit her job – and her flat | Science | The Observer". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  31. ^ BBC (9 January 2010). "Royal Institution former chief suing for discrimination". BBC. Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  32. ^ "Baroness Greenfield drops legal action against the Royal Institution". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  33. ^ "Adelaide Thinkers in Residence – Susan Greenfield". Govt. of South Australia. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  34. ^ $15m to form Royal Institution of Australia The Advertiser, 15 May 2009. Accessed 10 September 2014.
  35. ^ 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): 382–8.  
  36. ^ 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. London: Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  37. ^ Greenfield, Susan. "You And Me: The Neuroscience of Identity". Notting Hill Editions. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  38. ^ "Baroness Greenfield". UK Parliament Website. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  39. ^ "Baroness Greenfield profile at". TheyWorkForYou. mySociety. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  40. ^ "Baroness Susan Greenfield | House of Lords debates". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  41. ^ "Lords Hansard text for 05 Mar 2015 (pt 0001)". Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  42. ^ Little, Reg (9 August 2013). "Susan Greenfield: Tale of a terrible reckoning".  
  43. ^ a b c d Goldacre, Ben (21 October 2011). "Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper". The Guardian (London, UK). 
  44. ^ and Me: The Neuroscience of Identity
  45. ^ Derbyshire, David (24 February 2009). "Social websites harm children's brains". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 March 2009. 
  46. ^ "Social websites: bad for kids' brains?".  
  47. ^ Arthur, Charles (25 February 2009). "Age Concern backs social networks but Ben Goldacre's blood pressure still rising". (London, UK). Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  48. ^ "Main heading". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  49. ^ Bell, Vaughan; Bishop, Dorothy V. M.; Przybylski, Andrew K. (2015-08-12). "The debate over digital technology and young people". The BMJ 351: h3064.  
  50. ^ Bell V, Bishop DV, Przybylski A (2015). "The debate over digital technology and young people". BMJ (Editorial) (351).  
  51. ^
  52. ^ a b "Bio on the Royal Institution website". Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  53. ^ "Fellows – About us". Science Museum. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  54. ^ "Current Honorary Fellows". British Science Association. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  55. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55710. p. 9. 31 December 1999.
  56. ^ "The people's peers: seven knights, a lord's wife and three professors". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  57. ^ The London Gazette: no. 56252. p. 7343. 21 June 2001.
  58. ^ "MRW". Australian Society for Medical Research. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  59. ^ "2010 Awards". British Inspiration Awards. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  60. ^ "Patrons". Alzheimer's Research UK. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  61. ^ "Brian Pretty and Zoe Wanamaker among new patrons for Dignity in Dying (Jan 23) - Dignity in Dying". Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  62. ^ "Global Risk Register - About Science for Humanity". Retrieved 2015-09-17. 

Further reading

  • Screen culture may be changing our brains Australian Broadcasting Corporation: The 7.30 Report, 19 March 2009
  • 'Stumbling into a Powerful Technology' (Address to the House of Lords), 20 April 2006

External links

  • Susan Greenfield's website
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Baroness Greenfield
  • Oxford home page
  • Bio from the Social Issues Research Centre
  • Education Guardian biography
  • Biography and Interviews
  • The Wrong Chemistry
  • Audio: Susan Greenfield in conversation on the BBC World Service discussion programme The Forum
  • Knight Ayton Management: Professor Susan Greenfield
  • Neuroscience in the 20th Century, 24 December 1998, BBC Radio program In Our Time
  • Chaos Theory, 16 May 2002, BBC Radio program In Our Time
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