The Brain Prize - Six eminent scientists share the world’s largest brain research prize

The Brain Prize See all

The Brain Prize - Six eminent scientists share the world’s largest brain research prize

Six eminent scientists share the world’s
largest brain research prize

The Brain Prize
Denmark's 1 million euro brain research prize is awarded to six leading scientists for the development of ‘optogenetics’, a revolutionary technique that advances our understanding of the brain and its disorders.

The names of the prize winners, Austrian Gero Miesenböck, Germans Ernst Bamberg, Peter Hegemann, and Georg Nagel, and Americans Ed Boyden and Karl Deisseroth,were announced on Monday 11 March 2013 in Copenhagen

Together these scientists laid the foundations for a revolutionary technique optogenetics which will provide us with entirely new, fundamental knowledge of the complicated functions of the brain.
Optogenetics makes it easier to investigate diseases of the brain such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, pain disorders, schizophrenia, ADHD and addiction. It will play a significant role in the understanding of these disorders and, over time, in the development of a treatment for them.

The Brain Prize is awarded by the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize
Foundation. British professor Colin Blakemore, chairman of the Foundation's selection committee, says:
“Optogenetic control of nerve cells is arguably the most important technical advance in neuroscience in the past 40 years. It offers a revolution in our understanding of the way in which circuits of neurons carry out complex functions, such as learning and controlling movement. And it could provide an entirely new approach to the restoration of function in blindness or brain degeneration, and to the treatment of a variety of other neurological and psychiatric disorders”

Breakthrough of the decade Optogenetics, which has been called the breakthrough of the decade, involves the use of light to control neurons. Neurons can be genetically modified and made light sensitive. Then, when these neurons are stimulated by specific wavelengths of light, they can be turned either on or off.

The four European scientists, Bamberg, Hegemann, Miesenböck and Nagel, made the fundamental observations and discoveries and developed light sensitive molecules that can be introduced into specific types of neuron.
The two Americans collaborated with the Europeans to develop the technique further and put it to work in living mammals.
Neuroscience provides an important understanding of both the function of the normal brain and the causes of brain disorders.
It is estimated that more is spent on disorders of the brain
and the nervous system than on cardiovascular disease and cancer combined.

For instance, due to the growing size of the elderly population we will see a dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's. And costs are expected to rise. There are 7 million people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia in Europe alone.

This figure is expected to double every 20 years and the cost of dealing with dementia, which currently amounts to 130 billion euros in Europe, will increase correspondingly.

Consolidating the research environment The Brain Prize, which is the world's largest brain research prize, will be awarded for the third time this year. By augmenting the interaction between scientists in both Europe and
the USA, the Prize contributes to the consolidation of the international brain research environment. Chairman of the Foundation's board,

Nils Axelsen, MD, says:
"The Prize can be awarded to scientists who have conducted research in Europe, or to scientists who have conducted research in collaboration with European scientists.
Thus, the Prize stimulates international cooperation between the traditionally strong research environments in Europe and in the USA. However, it also inspires cooperation with other countries which are well on the way to developing solid research environments in the field of brain research."

The six scientists will all come to Denmark to receive the shared prize of 1 million euros at a ceremony on 2 May.
For further details, please contact:
European Brain Research Foundation
Ole Maaløes Vej 3
2200 Copenhagen N
Denmark
www.thebrainprize.org

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