News Release

Dr. Brenda Milner: 2005 Gairdner Award Winner

Dr. Brenda Milner (Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University), recognized as a founder of cognitive neuroscience, was named a 2005 winner of the prestigious Gairdner Award.

Grant and Award Announcement

McGill University

Dr. Brenda Milner, recognized as a founder of cognitive neuroscience, was named a 2005 winner of the prestigious Gairdner Award. Dr. Milner, the Dorothy J. Killam Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), and Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University, was awarded the prize for her pioneering research in memory.

Dr. Milner, originally from England, began her doctoral research in the 1950's with Dr. Donald Hebb in the Department of Psychology at McGill University. With Dr. Hebb's encouragement, she came to the MNI to work with Dr. Wilder Penfield. Her careful empirical work with patients helped Dr. Penfield define functional areas of the brain, important information for a neurosurgeon. Over several decades, Dr. Milner studied HM, a post-surgical patient made famous by her studies, and identified multiple memory systems by teasing out his cognitive capabilities and deficits. While HM was unable to remember recent events, he was able to learn new motor tasks. In all their years of association, HM never remembered from one time to another that he had met Dr. Milner nor that he had practiced a drawing skill under her direction. Designing a series of subtle experiments for HM, Dr. Milner was able to demonstrate two different memory systems. As evidence of her scientific skill and insight, it would be 25 years before other scientists developed experimental models of animal behaviour to study episodic and procedural memory systems.

Currently, Dr. Milner uses non-invasive brain imaging technology to study the functional specialization in the right and left brain hemispheres, and is particularly interested in the role of the right hemisphere in remembering the location of objects. Active in research and teaching, Dr. Milner is asked frequently to speak at scientific meetings and at universities throughout North America. The Gairdner Awards ( were established by Toronto businessman James Gairdner to honour outstanding achievement in medical science. Since their inception in 1959, 274 scientists have received the award and 64 have gone on the win a Nobel prize. The 2005 awardees were recently announced at a Toronto luncheon and will receive their awards and $30,000 cash prizes at a gala dinner in October. Dr. Milner and Dr. Endel Tulving, from the University of Toronto, are among the six prominent scientists honoured with the award this year.

The Montreal Neurological Institute ( is a McGill University ( research and teaching institute, dedicated to the study of the nervous system and neurological diseases. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, the MNI is one of the world's largest institutes of its kind. MNI researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. The MNI, with its clinical partner, the Montreal Neurological Hospital (MNH), part of the McGill University Health Centre (, continues to integrate research, patient care and training, and is recognized as one of the premier neuroscience centres in the world. Already well known for its McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, the MNI will expand its brain imaging research in the next several years through a $28 million award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, made in partnership with the government of Quebec. There will also be further development of MNI initiatives in multiple sclerosis, optical imaging and nano-neuroscience.


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.