Eve Marder, a professor of neuroscience at Brandeis University, will receive the $500,000 prize for her pioneering contributions to the understanding of neural circuits, in particular how the properties and dynamics of neural circuits give rise to specific behaviors. Marder's seminal discoveries were based on research she did on the stomatogastric ganglion (STG) of lobsters and crabs — the system that controls the muscle contractions that grind and move food through the crustaceans' gut, which is thought to be similar to the neural circuits that control breathing and other rhythmic functions in humans. By showing that STG is not hard-wired to produce a single pattern of output but rather is a remarkably plastic circuitry that can change both its parameters and function in response to various neuromodulators, Marder created a paradigm shift in how scientists view the architecture and function of neural circuits in the human brain and revolutionized the study of neuromodulators.
Marder also is recognized for helping to pioneer the expansion of theoretical neuroscience, which uses computational and mathematical tools to quantify what nervous systems do and how they operate. Lately, her research has focused on how neural circuits maintain stability over long periods of time despite constantly reconfiguring themselves. That research has broad implications for neurological diseases linked to dysfunctional neural circuitry, including schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain.
"Eve Marder has made a number of remarkable and groundbreaking discoveries that have fundamentally changed our understanding of how neural circuits operate and produce behavior," said Carol Barnes, chair of the Neuroscience Prize selection advisory board. "She has also been an exceptional leader outside the laboratory, working tirelessly to bring people together to improve scientific research, policy, and education."