John OKeefe received FENS EJN Award.
In 2008, the Award was given to John OKeefe, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, where he is a member of the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology.
The award winner has had a lifetime interest in the hippocampus and its role in memory. The loss of memory for events or episodes is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimers dementia and this is usually attributed to hippocampal damage. Dr. OKeefe has tackled this problem by studying how networks of hippocampal neurones code for locations in an environment. He discovered the place-coded cells in the hippocampus and authored (with Lynn Nadel) the ground-breaking book The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map in which they set out the spatial theory of hippocampal function. This theory identified spatial learning, navigation and exploration of new environments as important functions of the hippocampus, and showed how an extension of this spatial system might underpin human episodic memory. More recently O'Keefe has demonstrated that, in addition to firing rate, the timing of pyramidal cell action potentials relative to the EEG theta rhythm carries spatial information. This phase code provides some of the best evidence for the role of timing and oscillations as fundamental components of information representation in the mammalian central nervous system.
Dr. O'Keefe received a doctoral degree in physiological psychology from McGill University in Montreal and originally went to University College London in 1967 as a US National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow working with the late Patrick Wall. He has been there ever since, becoming a Professor in 1987.
A Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, OKeefe has been awarded the Feldberg Foundation Prize in 2001 for work in medical and biological science, the 2006 Grawemeyer prize in psychology, and the 2007 British Neuroscience Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Neuroscience.
OKeefe is a past chair of the British Neuroscience Association and has served on the councils of the Royal Society and the International Brain Research Organization.
The FENS EJN Award 2008 was presented in Geneva during the Forum of European Neuroscience 2008 (July 12 - 16, 2008). The prize winner gave a special lecture at the meeting.