Michael Merzenich Team Wins the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience
On June 2nd, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced the 2016 Kavli Prize Laureates in Astrophysics, Nanoscience, and Neuroscience.
My good friend and colleague Dr. Michael Merzenich was one of the winners! I am so thrilled for him and wanted to share this wonderful news with you. See the announcement: 9 SCIENTIFIC PIONEERS TO RECEIVE 2016 KAVLI PRIZES.
“The Kavli Prize in Neuroscience is shared between Eve Marder, Brandeis University, USA, Michael Merzenich, University of California San Francisco, USA, and Carla Shatz, Stanford University, USA.”
They receive the prize “for the discovery of mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain function.”
Until the 1970s, neuroscientists largely believed that by the time we reach adulthood the architecture of the brain is hard-wired and relatively inflexible. The ability of nerves to grow and form abundant new connections was thought mainly to occur during infancy and childhood. This view supported the notion that it is easier for children to learn new skills such as a language or musical instrument than it is for adults.
Over the past 40 years, however, the three Kavli neuroscience prize-winners have challenged these assumptions and provided a convincing view of a far more flexible adult brain than previously thought possible – one that is ‘plastic’, or capable of remodelling. Working in different model systems, each researcher has focused on how experience can alter both the architecture and functioning of nerve circuits throughout life, given the right stimulus and context. They have provided a physical and biochemical understanding of the idea of ‘use it, or lose it.’
This new picture of a more adaptable brain offers hope for developing new ways to treat neurological conditions that were once considered untreatable.
Dr. Merzenich’s Work in Neuroscience and Brain Plasticity
Kavli Prize winners receive the award from the King of Norway at the same venue as the Nobel Peace Prize, and Americans are typically congratulated by the President in the Oval Office. Recipients are chosen by leading international scientific organizations and this is one of the top honors in neuroscience. It is a well-earned recognition of the importance of the work Dr. Merzenich has spent his life pursuing.
“As a result of his groundbreaking brain-mapping experiments thirty years ago, Dr. Merzenich overturned the conventional wisdom that plasticity ends in adolescence, and showed that the adult brain remains plastic (or malleable) at any age. Lifelong plasticity is now an accepted scientific fact, but it took more than a decade and hundreds of publications to convince the neuroscience community.”
I have always had a great love and admiration for Mike and his work, especially what he stands for—how he is committed to improving people’s lives. I am so happy for him, and so grateful to know and collaborate with him. This prestigious award and recognition is also exciting because Mike has been a great supporter of my work Anat Baniel Method® NeuroMovement®.
“I have spent much of my own scientific career trying to understand how we can harness our capacity for brain remodeling for the benefit of children and adults in need of neurological help. From several decades of research, summarized in many thousands of published reports, we scientists have defined the ‘rules’ governing brain plasticity in neurological terms. We now know how to drive brains to change for the better.
It has been a great wonder to me, then, that my friend Anat Baniel, working in parallel along a completely different path, has defined almost exactly the same rules.”
—Michael Merzenich, PhD, Neuroscientist, Professor Emeritus UCSF, Author of Soft-Wired, and 2016 Kavli Prize Winner
About the Kavli Prize
The Kavli Prize recognizes scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. The Kavli Prize consists of USD $1,000,000 in each of the scientific fields. In addition to the prize money, the laureates receive a scroll and a gold medal. Learn more about the Prize: www.kavliprize.org.
The Kavli Prize in Neuroscience is awarded for outstanding achievement in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the brain and nervous system, including molecular neuroscience, cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, neurogenetics, developmental neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience, and related facets of the brain and nervous system.
Congratulations, Mike! You deserve this award for the extraordinary work you have done in the field of Neuroscience and brain plasticity!
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