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The following is adapted from a press release from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.
On Monday, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation announced the winners of their annual awards on outstanding achievements in psychiatric research. Earl Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, received the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience for his work on the neural circuitry of cognition. The award presentation took place on Friday, Oct. 28 at the Foundation’s 29th Annual National Awards Dinner, celebrating the transformative power of neuroscience and psychiatric research to improve the lives of people with mental illness, which affects one in five people.
Building on groundbreaking studies by the late neurobiologist Patricia Goldman-Rakic, after whom the award is named, Miller’s work has broken new ground in the understanding of cognition. Using innovative experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of high-level cognitive functions, his laboratory has provided insights into how categories, concepts, and rules are learned, how attention is focused, and how the brain coordinates thought and action. The laboratory has innovated techniques for studying the activity of many neurons in multiple brain areas simultaneously, providing insight into how different brain structures interact and collaborate. This work has established a foundation upon which to construct more detailed, mechanistic accounts of how executive control is implemented in the brain and its dysfunction in diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder, and has led to new approaches relevant to severe mental illnesses in children and adults.
According to Foundation President and CEO Jeffrey Borenstein, the Outstanding Achievement Prizes, which cover five categories, are among the most prestigious awards in the field of psychiatric research. The recipients were selected by the foundation’s Scientific Council, comprised of 173 leading experts across disciplines in brain and behavior research, including two Nobel laureates; the current director and four former directors of the National Institute of Mental Health; four recipients of the National Medal of Science; 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences; 26 chairs of psychiatry and neuroscience departments at leading medical institutions; and 55 members of the National Academy of Medicine.
“These scientists have dedicated their lives to understanding complex psychiatric conditions in order to help millions of affected people and their families,” Borenstein said. “We are proud to honor them and highlight the inspiring work of these outstanding scientists, teachers and mentors.”
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering of mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. The foundation funds the most innovative ideas in neuroscience and psychiatry to better understand the causes and develop new ways to treat brain and behavior disorders. These disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Since 1987, the foundation has awarded more than $360 million to fund more than 5,000 grants to more than 4,000 leading scientists around the world. This has led to over $3.5 billion in additional funding for these scientists. The foundation is also dedicated to educating the public about mental health and the importance of research, including the impact that new discoveries have on improving the lives of those with mental illness, which will ultimately enable people to live full, happy and productive lives. For more information, visit bbrfoundation.org.