Max Planck scientist receives the world’s top prize in neuroscience for her pioneering work on molecular mechanisms of brain development and plasticity
Erin Schuman, Michael Greenberg, and Christine Holt have revolutionized our understanding of how neurons regulate the thousands of different proteins – the building blocks of life, that are needed to support brain development, plasticity and maintenance. They have revealed crucial molecular mechanisms that sustain the development and function of the healthy brain and also provided key insights into the causes of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.
With the Brain Prize 2023, the Lundbeck Foundation honours the pioneering work of Erin Schuman from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Christine Holt from the University of Cambridge and Michael Greenberg from Harvard Medical School. The researchers have revolutionised our understanding of how nerve cells regulate the production of the brain’s many thousands of proteins. They have uncovered crucial mechanisms for brain development and function and provided insights into the origins of neurodegenerative diseases and developmental disorders.
To make appropriate neuronal connections during development or to adapt to new challenges through learning and memory in adulthood, the brain’s circuits must be remodelled and the new connections between neurons must be maintained – a capacity known as neuronal plasticity. Such plasticity requires that the brain’s proteins can be regulated.
Erin Schuman, Christine Holt and Michael Greenberg have uncovered the fundamental principles of how protein production is mediated at the molecular level – from the activity-dependent transcription of genes into mRNA to the local translation of mRNA into new proteins in the neurons’ processes. Their findings have provided spectacular insights into the mechanisms that allow the developing and adult brain to be shaped by experience. “Together, the winners of the Brain Prize 2023 have made ground-breaking discoveries, uncovering how the formation of new proteins is triggered in different areas of neurons and how this controls brain development and plasticity throughout life”, says Brain Prize selection committee chair Richard Morris. “Receiving the Brain Prize for our work on local synthesis of proteins is a great honour for me, and the talented students, postdocs, technicians and collaborators who have worked with me over the years at both Caltech and the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research”, says Erin Schuman.
About Erin Schuman
Erin Schuman was born in California in 1963. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Southern California, she received her PhD in neuroscience from Princeton University. As a postdoctoral fellow, she conducted studies in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. In 1993, she was appointed to the Biology Faculty at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). From 1997 until 2009, Erin Schuman was appointed Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). In 2009, she moved to Frankfurt with her husband Gilles Laurent to establish the new Max Planck Institute for Brain Research.
About the Brain Prize
The Brain Prize, awarded by the Lundbeck Foundation, is the world’s largest neuroscience research prize. The award recognises highly innovative and influential advances in all areas of brain research, from basic neuroscience to applied clinical research. Since its inception in 2011, the Brain Prize has been awarded to 44 scientists from nine countries.