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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
12-Feb-2014

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Contact: Natasha D. Pinol
scipak@aaas.org
202-326-6440
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Mapping the mind of a mating male

Wins the 2013 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, supported by The Fodor Family Trust

VIDEO: A C. elegans male mates with a hermaphrodite (real time). The worms swim on their sides in a bacterial lawn on an agar surface. The male presses the ventral side...

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A comprehensive reconstruction of the neuronal circuits for mating behaviors in the adult male roundworm won the 2013 Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The Association's oldest prize, now supported by The Fodor Family Trust, the Newcomb Cleveland Prize annually recognizes the author or authors of an outstanding paper published in the Research Articles or Reports sections of the journal Science between June and the following May.

A Science paper by Travis A. Jarrell, Yi Wang, Scott W. Emmons and colleagues will receive the AAAS prize for 2013. The research was originally published by Science on 27 July 2012.

Jarrell and colleagues have drawn up a comprehensive map of neural connections in the posterior nervous system of an adult male nematode (Caenorhabditis elegans). This wiring diagram, known as a connectome, reveals the circuits in the animals' tail that influence nematode mating behavior.

"My co-authors and I are honored to receive this prestigious recognition from the society," said Scott Emmons, who is a professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience and holds the Siegfried Ullmann Chair in Molecular Genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, New York. "We feel privileged to have been able to make a contribution to neuroscience at a time of renewed effort to understand the human brain, an effort that holds such great promise for improvement of human welfare."

The researchers used a series of 5,000 electron micrographs to reconstruct every neuron and synapse, including chemical synapses and gap junctions, in the tail ganglia of a male roundworm. The resulting network highlights various classes of neurons, such as sensory neurons with specialized external structures; motor neurons that communicate exclusively with muscles or gonads; and interneurons that form connections with other neurons. This connectome helps to explain how sensory neurons interpret signals from the environment and translate them into mating behavior, including locomotion, posture and insemination.

"This one paper emerged as a tour de force from amongst many competitive entries," said Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt. "The robust model system will contribute significantly to our further understanding of the precise mapping between neuron activity and essential behaviors that ensure survival of the species."

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A related Perspective article, "Neuroscience: The Mind of a Male?," by Dmitri Chklovskii and Cornelia Bargmann from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute suggests that the fundamental principles gleaned from the male nematode may help researchers understand how nervous systems generate such behavior.

IMAGE: A subset of C. elegans male-specific sensory neurons are labeled with a GFP reporter gene. The male has four sex-specific sensory neurons in the head (left end), but most of the...

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The paper, "The Connectome of a Decision-Making Neural Network," by T.A. Jarrell; Y. Wang; A.E. Bloniarz; M. Xu; D.H. Hall; S.W. Emmons at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York; J.N. Thomson; D.G. Albertson at Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, United Kingdom; A.E. Bloniarz at University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California; D.G. Albertson at University of California, San Francisco in San Francisco, California; C.A. Brittin at the University of Leeds, School of Computing in Leeds, United Kingdom can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/ozhwt8c. (Please note that the article is free without charge, but initial registration is required.)

The prize was established in 1923 with funds donated by Newcomb Cleveland of New York City and was originally called the AAAS Thousand Dollar Prize. It is now known as the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, and its value has been raised to $25,000. The winner also receives a prize plaque, complimentary registration and reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting. Eligible Science papers include original research data, theory, or synthesis. They should represent a fundamental contribution to basic knowledge, or a technical achievement of far-reaching consequence. Winning nominations also should be a first-time publication of the author's own work.

The 2012-2013 Newcomb Cleveland Prize Selection Committee included Marcia McNutt, the Science Editor-in-Chief as well as Science Senior Editorial Board members Paul Alivisatos of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley; Michael Turner, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago; Susan Rosenberg, Professor, Departments of Molecular and Human Genetics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine; William Butz, World Population Program; Andrew Sugden, Science Deputy Editor, Biological Sciences; Valda Vinson, Science Deputy Editor, Biological Sciences; and Barbara Jasny, Science Deputy Editor, Commentary.

The Newcomb Cleveland Prize will be presented at the 180th AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which will take place 13-17 February 2014. The awards ceremony and reception will be held in the Rouge Ballroom at the Fairmont Chicago Hotel (200 North Columbus Drive) on Friday, 14 February, from 6:15 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

CONTACTS: Scott W. Emmons, professor of genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, can be reached at scott.emmons@einstein.yu.edu or +1-718-430-3130 or +1-917-804-8684. For general information on the AAAS Awards ceremony or other background, Senior Communications Officer Kat Zambon of AAAS can be reached at (202) 326-6434 or kzambon@aaas.org.

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

Supported by The Fodor Family Trust

Stephen P.A. Fodor, Ph.D., and his colleagues were awarded the Newcomb Cleveland Prize in 1991 for their landmark publication which first introduced microarray technology to the scientific community. ("Light-directed, spatially addressable parallel chemical synthesis," with co-authors J. Read, M.C. Pirrung, L. Stryer, A.Lu, and D. Solas, Science, 15 February 1991.)

Fodor began supporting the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize in 2003, helping to more than double the prize's monetary value. "Receiving the Newcomb Cleveland Award in 1991 was the first important public acknowledgement of our invention," he says. "Today, the award remains one of our most valued. We are thrilled to support its continued legacy. It is important to recognize and encourage the innovative work of new scientists as their work will become the foundation for future research and discovery."

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science ∙ Serving society."



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