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Researchers Elected to Prestigious Organizations for Contributions to Science

Terry Sejnowski and Rusty Gage

Terry Sejnowski (left) and Fred H. "Rusty" Gage

There was plenty of cause for celebration at the Salk Institute in April with the announcement that two senior scientists had received major honors on the same day for their contributions to science.

Announcements came on April 27 that Terry Sejnowski, whose work helped spark the neural networks revolution in computing in the 1980s, had been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and Fred H. "Rusty" Gage, one of the most highly cited neuroscientists in the world, had been inducted to the American Philosophical Society (APS).

Election into each of these prestigious organizations is among the highest honors bestowed upon scientists. Members of the NAS are recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin and modeled after the Royal Society of London, the APS was the first organization in America to promote scientific endeavors and knowledge.

"Both Terry and Rusty are exceptional scientists," said Salk President William R. Brody. "Their latest honors are a testament to their pioneering research that is helping to answer important questions in neuroscience."

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Sejnowski tries to understand the computational resources of brains, and to build linking principles from brain to behavior using computational models. He pursues his goal by combining both experimental and modeling techniques to study the biophysical properties of synapses -- the connections between brain cells -- and the population dynamics of large networks of neurons.

Sejnowski's election raises the number of Salk scientists who are members of the NAS to 16 (about 27 percent of the faculty). He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Gage joins a distinguished group of former APS members who include Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, past and present Salk faculty members Renato Dulbecco, Sydney Brenner, Francis H. C. Crick, Ronald M. Evans, Inder Verma, Tony Hunter and former Salk president Augustus B. Kinzel.

Gage's laboratory concentrates on the adult central nervous system and unexpected plasticity and adaptability to environmental stimulation that remains throughout the life of all mammals. He and his colleagues showed that, contrary to accepted dogma, human beings are capable of growing new nerve cells throughout life.

His lab also showed that environmental enrichment and physical exercise can enhance the growth of new brain cells. His team is studying the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms that may be harnessed to repair the aged and damaged brain and spinal cord.

Gage has been elected to the National Academy of Science, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also the past recipient of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Neuroscience Award, the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Award, the Max-Planck Research Award, and the Keio Medical Science Prize.