Three Hungarian neuroscientists were awarded the € 1 million BRAIN PRIZE 2011 for their brilliant analysis of brain circuits involved in memory. One of them is Tamas Freund, FENS President form 2004 to 2006.
The Brain Prize 2011 is jointly awarded to Péter Somogyi, Tamás Freund and György Buzsáki, 'for their wide-ranging, technically and conceptually brilliant research on the functional organization of neuronal circuits in the cerebral cortex, especially in the hippocampus, a region that is crucial for certain forms of memory'. The three scientists are all native Hungarians, who from their current locations in Europe and the USA share an interest in the way in which circuits of nerve cells process information in the brain.
Although the work of these three Hungarian researchers has been aimed at fundamental understanding of brain function, it is illuminating the causes and symptoms of a variety of clinical conditions, from epilepsy and Parkinson's disease to anxiety and dementia. It has set the gold standard for correlating structure and function, from molecules to behaviour.
Tamas Freund is Director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. He has concentrated on the role of inhibitory 'interneurons' – small nerve cells that release the neurotransmitter γ-amino butyric acid (GABA), which reduces activity in nerve cells to which they connect. Freund and his group identified in the hippocampus three novel types of such cells that connect to other inhibitory nerve cells. He made the important discovery that control of inhibitory interneurons by other inhibitory cells regulates rhythmic patterns of activity, which are essential for normal memory formation. He has also demonstrated that cannabinoid-related molecules – naturally occurring transmitters in the brain and certain drugs acting on the brain – work on a specific class of inhibitory nerve cells, and he has suggested ways in which failure of this mechanism might be involved in a variety of diseases.
The award ceremony will take place on May 2, 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark and Prize Lectures will be given on May 3, 2011, also in Copenhagen.
The Brain Prize of € 1 million is awarded by Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation, a charitable, non-profit organization. The Brain Prize is a personal prize awarded to one or more scientists who have distinguished themselves by an outstanding contribution to European neuroscience.