Kavli Prize

Looks like it’s science prize week on neuroecology… I missed that the Kavli prize winners were announced earlier this month. The Kavli Prize goes to researchers in astrophysics, nanophysics, and neuroscience (yeah, I don’t get the connection either.)

This year’s neuroscience winners are Brenda Milner, John O’Keefe, and Marcus E. Raichle “for the discovery of specialized brain networks for memory and cognition.” The summaries of their work:

Brenda Milner discovered regions of the brain specialized for memory formation and other cognitive functions.  She found that HM, a neurological patient with damage to the hippocampus and surrounding regions, could not acquire new memories of events, but could speak, reason and recall long-past memories.

John O’Keefe discovered that the hippocampus contains neurons that encode an animal’s specific location. These place cells allow detection of novelty and changes in familiar environments and collectively form a cognitive map critical for animal navigation behaviour.

Marcus E. Raichle designed methods for visualizing the activity of the normal living human brain. These techniques permitted the quantitative measurements of blood flow and metabolism in localized regions of the brain and provided the basis for all modern functional imaging studies.

Nature Reviews Neuroscience has an interview with the three winners (paywall, sadly). This left me flabbergasted:

In 1936, I went to Cambridge University to study mathematics but soon realized that I would never distinguish myself in that field. I thought of switching to philosophy because I was still attracted to the study of logic but my colleagues advised me to try experimental psychology instead, since it would be easier to find a job afterwards. It turned out to be a very good choice.

1936?! And this woman is still receiving awards? I don’t know whether to be proud of her or terrified. Interestingly, two of the three winners specifically mentioned their interest in philosophy. How many would these days?



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