Roger Nicoll and Richard Tsien Receive Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience
WASHINGTON, DC — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will present its highest award, the Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience, to Roger Nicoll, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and Richard W. Tsien, DPhil, of New York University. The $25,000 prize will be jointly awarded during Neuroscience 2014, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
The prize honors outstanding scientists who have made significant contributions to neuroscience throughout their careers. The Gerard Prize was established in the name of Ralph W. Gerard, who was instrumental in establishing SfN and served as honorary president from 1970 until his death in 1974.
“It is a pleasure to award the 2014 Gerard Prize jointly to Drs. Nicoll and Tsien. They have performed seminal work that has transformed our understanding of the mechanisms that the mammalian brain uses to transmit and store information,” SfN President Carol Mason said. “In addition to their many scientific accomplishments, Nicoll and Tsien have played a crucial role as mentors in the field of synaptic physiology and biophysics.”
Nicoll’s research has guided new understandings of the basic mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission, the process by which neurons communicate using chemicals called neurotransmitters. Specifically, he pioneered understanding of slow synaptic transmission, in which neurotransmitters communicate by initiating a series of chemical changes in target neurons. Nicoll’s research also revealed new information about synaptic plasticity, particularly long-term potentiation (LTP), the strengthening of the synapses (connections) between nerve cells related to learning and memory. By using a combination of electrophysiological and molecular techniques, Nicoll’s lab has uncovered the role of several families of synaptic proteins involved in LTP and is currently exploring how LTP is stabilized and maintained. Nicoll will deliver the Grass Lecture on his work at Neuroscience 2014.
Nicoll earned his MD from University of Rochester School of Medicine and is currently a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at UCSF.
Tsien has contributed richly to what neuroscientists currently understand about cellular signaling. He played a central role in discovering and classifying diverse types of calcium channels, including those most critical to brain function. Tsien’s insights into the basic mechanisms of ion channel function, neurotransmitter release, and intracellular signaling have helped elucidate the cell biology of changes in synaptic strength, which is believed to be important for learning and memory, and can go awry in neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism.
Tsien earned his doctorate in biophysics at Oxford University and is currently a professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and serving as the first director of the center’s Neuroscience Institute.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 40,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. More information about the brain can be found at BrainFacts.org, a public information initiative of The Kavli Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and SfN.