Society for Neuroscience Presents Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience
CHICAGO — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will present its highest honor, the Ralph W.Gerard Prize in Neuroscience, to Michael Greenberg, PhD, and Catherine Dulac, PhD. Greenberg and Dulac will share the $25,000 prize honoring outstanding scientists who have made significant contributions to neuroscience throughout their careers. The Gerard Prize is named for Ralph W. Gerard, a revered neuroscientist who was instrumental in establishing SfN and served as its honorary president from 1970 to 1974. The award will be presented in Chicago at Neuroscience 2019, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
“It is an honor to present Drs. Greenberg and Dulac with the 2019 Gerard Prize,” SfN president Diane Lipscombe said. “Both have made seminal contributions to their fields, provided groundbreaking insight into molecular mechanisms in the brain, and changed our understanding of how the brain gives rise to behavior.”
Greenberg, a professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School,discovered that gene transcription is activated in response to extracellular stimuli, revealing how experience controls the development and function of synapses in the brain. Greenberg’s insight uncovered the mechanism for synaptic plasticity at the cellular and molecular level and resulted in an entire field of study dedicated to elucidating this activity-dependent gene transcription. His work has reached beyond neuroscience, defining what is now a central tenet of cell biology:extracellular stimuli send signals across the membrane to activate immediate early genes such as Fos, leading to the expression of genes that govern a cell’s phenotype and functional state. His work has also elucidated how disruptions to these signaling pathways contribute to various diseases and set a path towards treatments. In addition to his paradigm-shifting work, Greenberg has trained dozens of neuroscientists that now hold leadership positions in academic and industrial settings around the world.
Dulac, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provided significant insight into the sensing of pheromones and the control of social behaviors in mammals. Using clever molecular and genetic strategies,Dulac identified genes uniquely expressed in individual neurons, which allowed her to isolate novel families of pheromone receptors, ion channels, and co-receptors in the vomeronasal sensory system. Next, she demonstrated the essential role played by the vomeronasal system in the sex discrimination of social signals and in controlling the sex-specificity of social behaviors,including mating, aggression and parenting, overturning dogma about the nature and mode of function of circuits underlying male and female specific social behaviors. By combining genetic strategies with physiology and novel behavioral paradigms, Dulac has provided novel insight into both how mammals process pheromonal information and how central circuits respond to sex- and species-specific cues to orchestrate social behaviors. In recent breakthrough work, she elucidated the nature and functional logic of neural circuits controlling infant-evoked behaviors in adult males and females.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.