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CSHL Assistant Professor Anne Churchland receives 2012 McKnight Scholar Award

Anne Churchland
Anne Churchland

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — 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 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.

Written By: Hema Bashyam, Science Writer | | 516-367-8455

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit