The Club’s award, first bestowed in 1987, honors outstanding established investigators studying the cerebral cortex, the brain’s outer layers where circuits of neurons enable functions ranging from sensory processing to cognition. These circuits can constantly remodel their connections to adapt the brain to experience, a phenomenon called “plasticity” that underlies learning and memory.
With a focus on the visual cortex, Nedivi’s lab investigates the molecular and cellular mechanisms that enable plasticity in the developing and adult brain, including identification of the genes whose expression is involved, characterization of the cellular functions of the proteins those genes encode, and studies of synaptic and neuronal remodeling as it happens in live, behaving animals. To enable those observations, Nedivi and longtime collaborator Peter So, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, have developed advanced microscopy systems that can image multiple components of neural connections in the cortex of live rodents.
In a message to Nedivi notifying her of the honor, Cajal Club president Leah Kurbitzer, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, said: “This award recognizes your outstanding and continuous contributions to our understanding of fundamental aspects of cortical connectivity in the mammalian brain, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying adult visual experience plasticity. Your work examining both the effects of visual experience manipulations and the functions of activity induced candidate plasticity genes, by using advanced state of the art in vivo multiphoton imaging technologies and sophisticated molecular genetic manipulations to expose fundamental mechanisms of brain plasticity, has made you a leader in the field, and an exceptional Krieg Cortical Discoverer award winner.”
Nedivi said she was honored to receive the award. The Club will confer it Nov. 12 at its annual social during the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.
“I am honored to be recognized with this award and to be following in the footsteps of many previous recipients whose work I admire and respect,” said Nedivi, a faculty member of MIT’s Departments of Biology and of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Previous honorees with Picower Institute ties include Newton Professor of Neuroscience Mriganka Sur and Picower Institute Scientific Advisory Board member Carla Shatz, a Professor at Stanford University. Nedivi’s former trainee Jerry Chen, now an Associate Professor at Boston University, and Sur’s former trainee Anna Majewska, now a Professor at the University of Rochester, have each won Krieg Cortical Explorer awards, which are given to researchers at an earlier career stage.