In 2010, the award was given to Wolfram Schultz, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, where he is a member of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience.
The award winner is interested in relating the mechanics of brain activity to measurable behaviour. He combines behavioural, neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques to investigate the neural mechanisms of learning, goal-directed behaviour and economic decision making at the level of single neurons and individual brain structures. He uses behavioural concepts from animal learning theory and economic decision theories to study the neurophysiology and neuroimaging of reward and risk in individual neurons and in specific brain regions, including the dopamine system, striatum, orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala.
Wolfram Schultz discovered the phasic reward signal of dopamine neurons and characterised its coding of reward prediction error. He also imaged the first human brain reward signal with Nico Leenders. His current interests are in adaptive and reference dependent coding of reward value (a corner stone of Prospect Theory), neuronal risk signals for reward, and the influence of risk on reward value (as predicted by Utility Theory). These studies help to kindle the current interest of the experimental and theoretical neuroscience community in reinforcement learning and neuroeconomics and led to a large number of reward and economic decision studies in humans and animals that provide a biological foundation for neuroeconomics.
Wolfram Schultz received his doctoral degree in medicine from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and his habilitation at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, SUNY Buffalo and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, respectively, before taking up junior and senior faculty positions at the University of Fribourg. In 2001 he moved to the University of Cambridge. He was a visiting scientist at Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Neuroscience and at Tamagawa University and is a Visiting Research Associate at Caltech, Pasadena.
A Fellow of the Royal Society, Wolfram Schultz has been awarded the 1984 Ellerman Prize of the Swiss Societies of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Neuropatholgy, the 1997 Theodore-Ott Prize of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (shared), the 2002 Golden Brain Award of the Minerva Foundation, San Francisco, and the 2005 Ipsen Prize for Neuronal Plasticity (shared). Wolfram Schultz is a past president of the European Brain and Behaviour Society and has served on national and international scientific councils and committees.
The FENS EJN Award 2010 was presented in Amsterdam during the Forum of European Neuroscience 2010 (July 3-7, 2010). The prize winner gave a special lecture at the meeting.