WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will award the Donald B. Lindsley Prize in Behavioral Neuroscience to Marley Kass, PhD, of Rutgers University. Awarded in recognition of an outstanding PhD thesis in behavioral neuroscience, the $2,500 prize was established in 1979 in honor of Donald B. Lindsley, an early trustee of The Grass Foundation. The award will be presented in San Diego at Neuroscience 2018, SfN's annual meeting and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
"Dr. Kass' thesis is an impressive consideration of experience-dependent plasticity of early sensory processing," SfN President Richard Huganir said. "The Society is happy to honor Dr. Kass for her groundbreaking work on sensory plasticity in the mouse brain, which has already had an impact on the field of neuroscience as well as those of biology and psychology."
One of Kass' most important discoveries was that early stages of sensory processing in the mouse olfactory system can be radically altered by learning. In her experiments, Kass used optical neurophysiological methods in genetically engineered mice to observe changes in primary sensory neurons before and after mice learned that one odor predicted an impending electrical shock while another odor did not. This research led to the finding that emotional learning can influence the output of olfactory sensory neurons, which upends the assumption that most learning-induced changes occur later in the processing stream. Instead, it supports a view of early sensory processing in which stimulus representations are highly malleable.
Kass also studied how changes in sensory environment affect olfactory perception, finding that the representation of odors by peripheral olfactory sensory neurons can be changed through simple environmental manipulations, such as olfactory sensory deprivation or exposure to odors. Her other work has explored how changes in sensory environment affect olfactory perception and differences in olfactory neurons that result as a function of sex differences and aging. Together her research findings have implications for many areas of research, including learning, memory, sensory processing, and treatment of symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.