2014 Neuroscience Laureate Biographies

The Kavli Prize - Neuroscience

Brenda Milner

Brenda Milner

Brenda Milner is a Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University and a Professor of Psychology at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Her career has spanned more than six decades and during her distinguished career she has made seminal discoveries in the area of memory systems.

She was born in Manchester, England and graduated from Cambridge University with a BA degree in experimental psychology. Milner was awarded a Research Studentship by Newnham College, Cambridge for two years. However, as a result of World War II, the work of the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory that she was based in was diverted to applied research in the selection of aircrew. Milner’s position in this was to devise perceptual tasks for future use in selecting aircrew. Following their marriage, she and her husband moved to Canada. Brenda Milner became a PhD candidate in psychophysiology at McGill University, under the direction of the distinguished Donald O. Hebb. In 1950, Hebb gave Milner an opportunity to study with Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute, where she studied the behavior of epileptic patients treated with focal ablation of brain tissue. In 1952, Milner earned her PhD in experimental psychology.

It was during this time that Milner met and began her seminal work with Henry Molaison, an epilepsy patient who suffered severe memory impairment following the removal of the medial temporal lobe on both sides of his brain. This work led Milner to speculate that there are different types of learning and memory, each dependent on a separate system of the brain. Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel described her work as creating the new field of cognitive neuroscience by merging neurology and psychology.

More recently, she has expanded her research to the study of brain activity in normal subjects using functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. These studies focus on the identification of brain regions associated with spatial memory and language.

Her scientific contributions have been recognised by more than 20 honorary degrees and many prestigious awards from international scientific societies. She is a fellow of the Royal Society (UK), the Royal Society of Canada and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has received numerous prizes and awards including the International Balzan Prize, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, Gairdner International Award and the NSERC Award of Excellence. In 2007, she established the Brenda Milner Foundation to support postdoctoral fellowships in cognitive neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Photo: © Owen Egan/McGill, University

John O’Keefe

John O’Keefe

John O’Keefe is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at University College London. In June 2013, he was appointed as the Inaugural Director of the Sainsbury Welcome Centre.

Born in New York City, John O’Keefe received a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York. He went on to study for his doctoral degree in physiological psychology with Ronald Melzack in Donald O. Hebb’s department at McGill University in Montreal; his doctorate was awarded in 1967. O’Keefe then worked as a US National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow at University College London in the laboratory of Patrick Wall. He has been there ever since, becoming a professor in 1987.

Throughout his career, O’Keefe has studied the hippocampus and its role in spatial memory and navigation, the loss of which is prominent in disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. His research has shown how networks of hippocampal neurons are involved in determining an animal’s location in the environment. He discovered place cells in the hippocampus and, with Lynn Nadel, co-authored the ground-breaking 1978 book ‘The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map’, which set out the spatial theory of hippocampal function (www.cognitivemap.net). The discovery of place cells and the formulation of the cognitive map theory are important early milestones in the development of the field of cognitive neuroscience.

John O’Keefe is a Fellow of  the Royal Society (UK) and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and has been awarded numerous prizes in recognition of his research. He was awarded the Feldberg Foundation Prize in 2001 for work in medical and biological science, the 2006 Grawemeyer Award in psychology in 2006, the British Neuroscience Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Neuroscience in 2007, the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies European Neuroscience Journal Award in recognition of excellence in all areas of neuroscience in 2008, and the Louisa Gross Horwitzz Prize in 2013.

Photo: © David Bishop, UCL

Marcus E. Raichle

Marcus E. Raichle

Marcus E. Raichle is a Professor of Radiology, Neurology, Anatomy and Neurobiology at the Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis. He received his bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle. Between 1964 and 1971, he furthered his medical training at Baltimore City Hospital, Cornell Medical Centre and Johns Hopkins University, including a two-year appointment as a Major in the United States Air Force, where he worked as a Neurologist and Flight Surgeon at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine in Texas. He joined the faculty at Washington University as a research instructor in Neurology and Radiology in 1971, and was appointed as Professor of Neurology in 1978 and Professor of Radiology in 1979.

Marucs Raichle is known for his pioneering research in the development and use of imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography, to identify specific areas of the brain that are involved in tasks such as seeing, hearing, reading and remembering as well as emotion. This work has allowed researchers to study the living human brain and record its function in health and disease. In addition, he and his research team have analyzed chemical receptors in the brain, investigated the physiology of major depression and anxiety, and evaluated patients at risk for stroke. He has also played a pivotal role in the development of the “default mode network” to describe resting state brain function, a concept that has become a central theme in neuroscience.

He has received many honours, including election to the Institute of Medicine in 1991 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996. More recently, he has received the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience Research, the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology and the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize.

Photo: © Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis