NAS Award in the Neurosciences

NAS Award in the Neurosciences

About the NAS Award in the Neurosciences

The NAS Award in the Neurosciences is awarded every three years to recognize extraordinary contributions to the progress of the neuroscience fields, including neurochemistry, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, developmental neuroscience, neuroanatomy, and behavioral and clinical neuroscience. The award was established by the Fidia Research Foundation and is presented with a $25,000 prize.

Most Recent Recipient

Mortimer Mishkin, chief, Section on Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health, received the 2016 NAS Award in the Neurosciences. Over the past 60 years, Mishkin has discovered some of the most important principles of brain organization, many of which are now considered much like established facts in the field of neuroscience. In the 1950s, for instance, while a student working with Karl Pribram, Mishkin identified the visual functions of the inferior temporal cortex through the study of lesions in the brains of monkeys. He established that this part of the brain is crucial for learning and retention of visual information. In the 1960s, Mishkin and Eichii Iwai showed that the posterior and anterior portions of the anterior temporal cortex were responsible for different types of visual functions, with the posterior handling perceptual aspects and the anterior playing a more important role in mnemonic aspects, such as recognizing a recently seen object. And in the 1980s, Mishkin and Leslie Ungerleider proposed that there were two visual systems within the primate brain—a ventral stream concerned with pattern vision (“what”) and a dorsal stream concerned with spatial vision (“where”). This theory now provides the foundation for nearly all work on cortical visual processing.

In another important line of research, Mishkin has investigated the distinction between “cognitive” and “noncognitive” memories, both of which exist in animals and humans. Cognitive memories are those based on the integrity of the limbic system and are typically the ones associated with amnesia, such as being unable to recall an event or fact. Noncognitive memories are usually motor skills or habits, such as the ability to play a tune on the piano. By the mid-1980s, Mishkin and colleagues made the major discovery that the noncognitive habit system depends on the integrity of the basal ganglia. And as Acting Chief of the Laboratory of Neuropsychology at the National Institute of Mental Health, Mishkin continues to make major contributions to our understanding of amnesia, memories, and the brain. Read more about Mishkin's work»

Award History

Seymour S. Kety and Louis Sokoloff became the first recipients of the award in 1988 for their work developing techniques to measure brain blood flow and metabolism. The techniques developed remain valuable to the study of brain function and maintain application in clinical medicine. Kety’s nitrous oxide method to measure the brain’s blood flow revolutionized research on the human brain. His theory of inert gas exchange between blood and tissues sought to measure more localized measurements in the brain rather than the brain’s as a whole, which is what the nitrous oxide method measured. In translating the theory to method, Sokoloff collaborated with Kety to translate Kety’s theory to an operational method.  The work completed by the two in made huge strides in the field of neuroscience.


Mortimer Mishkin (2016)
For fundamental contributions to understanding the functional organization of the primate brain, including discovery of the visual functions of inferior temporal cortex, the role of the dorsal and ventral visual pathways in spatial and object processing, and anatomical descriptions of cognitive and non-cognitive memory systems.
Read more about Mishkin's work»

Solomon H. Snyder (2013)
For the elucidation of fundamental mechanisms of chemical signaling, including opiate receptors, NO signaling, and other neurotransmitter/receptor interactions.

Roger A. Nicoll (2010)
For his seminal discoveries elucidating cellular and molecular bases for synaptic plasticity in the brain.

Jean-Pierre Changeux (2007)
For the pioneering discovery that fast-acting neurotransmitters mediate their effects through allosteric regulation of the neurotransmitter protein.

Brenda Milner (2004)
For her pioneering and seminal investigations of the functioning of the temporal lobes and other brain regions in learning, memory, and speech.

Seymour Benzer (2001)
For his pioneering contributions which have brought neurogenetics to maturity. Benzer's discoveries in fruit flies have identified specific genes contributing to behaviors of central importance.

Vernon B. Mountcastle (1998)
For his discovery of the columnar organization of the mammalian cerebral cortex and for original studies relating behavior to function of single cells in higher cortical areas.

Walle J. H. Nauta (1994)
For development of a powerful method for determining connectivity among specific brain sites and thus establishing now-classical circuits in the limbic system.

Paul Greengard (1991)
For his discovery of the central role played by neuronal phosphoproteins in normal brain function as well as in neuropsychiatric and related disorders.

Seymour S. Kety and Louis Sokoloff (1988)
For developing techniques to measure brain blood flow and metabolism -- valuable tools in the study of brain function that have major applications in clinical medicine.


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