CSHL Assistant Professor Anne Churchland receives 2012 McKnight Scholar Award

Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. --  Assistant Professor Anne Churchland, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is one of six recipients of the 2012 McKnight Scholar Award. Given annually since 1977, the Awards are the vehicle through which the McKnight Foundation supports neuroscience research that addresses a basic problem, which when solved could immediately and significantly impact clinical issues.

Churchland plans to use the award, which provides $75,000 per year for three years, to study the neural circuits that underlie a process known as multisensory decision-making – the integration of information from individual senses such as seeing, hearing and touch to make more accurate decisions.

Although previous behavioral studies in humans have shown that that combining sensory information from multiple sources is a standard operating procedure in the brain, very little is actually known about the neural circuits that support multisensory integration. Churchland plans to combine behavioral, electrophysiological and optogenetic techniques to chart these circuits, analyze behavior in both rats and humans that are trained to do the same decision-making task, and to establish cause-and-effect relationships between neural structures and specific decisions.

“How the brain combines different sources of information to guide behavior is a major unsolved problem in systems neuroscience,” explains Churchland. She hopes that by solving this problem, her research could ultimately help reveal the answers to clinical questions, such as why people with certain disorders such as autism integrate sensory information differently as compared to healthy people and thereby develop therapeutic strategies.

“We are delighted that the McKnight Foundation has recognized Anne’s innovative research directions with a McKnight Scholar Award and we are confident that she will make important breakthroughs toward understanding the complex process of multisensory decision-making,” said David L. Spector, Ph.D., Director of research at the Laboratory.

 
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. CSHL is ranked number one in the world by Thomson Reuters for impact of its research in molecular biology and genetics. The Laboratory has been home to eight Nobel Prize winners. Today, CSHL's multidisciplinary scientific community is more than 360 scientists strong and its Meetings & Courses program hosts more than 12,500 scientists from around the world each year to its Long Island campus and its China center. Tens of thousands more benefit from the research, reviews, and ideas published in journals and books distributed internationally by CSHL Press. The Laboratory's education arm also includes a graduate school and programs for undergraduates as well as middle and high school students and teachers. CSHL is a private, not-for-profit institution on the north shore of Long Island. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.

Written by: Hema Bashyam, Science Writer | bashyam@cshl.edu | 516-367-6822