Turrigiano Receives HFSP 2012 Nakasone Award

The Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) has announced that the 2012 HFSP Nakasone Award has been conferred upon Professor of Biology Gina Turrigiano for introducing the concept of “synaptic scaling”.

Gina is the third recipient of the HFSP Nakasone Award. This award, first given in 2010, honours the vision of former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone for his efforts to launch a program of support for international collaboration and to foster early career scientists in a global context. The HFSP Nakasone Award is designed to honour scientists who have undertaken frontier-moving research in biology, encompassing conceptual, experimental or technological breakthroughs. Awardees receive an unrestricted research grant of USD 10,000, a medal and a personalised certificate. The award ceremony will be held at the annual meeting of HFSP awardees to be held in the Republic of Korea in July 2012, where Gina will give the HFSP Nakasone Lecture at the annual meeting of HFSP awardees to be held in the Republic of Korea in July 2012.

From the press release:

The concept of “synaptic scaling” was introduced to resolve an apparent paradox: how can neurons and neural circuits maintain both stability and flexibility? The number and strength of synapses shows major changes during development and in learning and memory. Such changes could potentially lead to massive changes in neuronal output that could have deleterious effects on the stability of neuronal networks and memory storage. Homeostatic mechanisms are therefore required to control neuronal output within certain limits while still maintaining the relative weights of synaptic inputs that underlie information storage. The work of Gina Turrigiano’s laboratory has shown that neurons can “tune” themselves by responding to an increase in firing rate by scaling down all excitatory synaptic strengths and vice versa. Such global changes in synaptic input limits the rate of firing (output) while maintaining changes in the relative strengths of individual synapses (input). She continues to explore the mechanisms that underlie such scaling phenomena and their function in vivo using a variety of molecular, electrophysiological, imaging and computational approaches.

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