One of my most memorable and illuminating college assignments involved reading the book Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, a compendium of personal accounts by André Lwoff, Seymour Benzer, and others describing events and circumstances surrounding their own great discoveries in molecular genetics. Sure, one can glean the essential facts and logic behind these advances from reading the original publications reporting the work; but in the interest of objectivity, intellectual clarity, and efficiency, scientific publications are generally sanitized of the personal and serendipitous elements that are sometimes critical to discovery and scientific revelation. However, scientific research is a human endeavor in which personal circumstances, chance encounters, accidental observations, intuition, and philosophy can also play a role, and it is therefore fascinating to understand how these subjective or unforeseen factors influence our thinking and contribute to scientific progress. It can also be illuminating to see just how a scientist looks back on important discoveries and places them in the context of experiences spanning a full career.
In this vein, we are pleased to open each Annual Review of Physiology (ARP) volume with a specially commissioned Perspective in which a pioneer is given the opportunity to tell us about his or her personal journey through science, including the many human factors and reflections that get left on the cutting room floor when manuscripts are written and seminars delivered. This year, we are privileged to bring you a wonderful contribution from Terje Lømo, Professor Emeritus of Neurophysiology at the University of Oslo, Norway. Dr. Lømo discovered long-term potentiation (LTP), a phenomenon whereby brief, high-frequency stimulation of central synapses results in a long-lasting enhancement in the efficiency of transmission. Since its discovery, LTP has come to represent the single most compelling cellular model of synaptic plasticity and associative learning and is thus one of the most intensely studied mechanisms in all of neuroscience. In a wonderful pairing of contributions, our own Roger Nicoll, together with Bruce Herring, brings us up to date on the current state of affairs in LTP research—a field that has weathered contentious battles and many unexpected turns over several decades.
Another ARP feature is the Special Topics section, in which we aim to highlight an emergent or exciting area. This year’s choice is mitochondria, where biochemistry, genomics, and membrane biophysics are coming together to provide unprecedented new insights into the many physiological roles played by these dynamic and multifaceted organelles. Many thanks to David Clapham, our Associate Editor, and Rosario Rizzuto, Professor of Experimental and Diagnostic Medicine, University of Ferrara, Italy, for putting this section together. There’s also a superb article on mitochondrial fatty acid β-oxidation in the Cardiovascular Physiology section, providing an infusion of thought-provoking material for the already committed "mitochondriacs" and those new to the area. In addition to these special sections, this volume offers a fantastic array of topical reviews ranging from the pathophysiology of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease to the neural basis of long-distance navigation in birds.
Let me conclude by thanking all of the authors and editorial team members who made this volume possible. I would like to add a special note of appreciation for Dr. Marlene Rabinovitch, who shall be rotating out of her role as editor of the Cardiovascular Physiology section. Marlene brought an unusually broad perspective to this section and to the committee at large. It is our good fortune to have Dr. Ken Walsh, Professor of Medicine at Boston University, now take up the reins for this section, and we welcome him to the group.