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Four top scientists visits Denmark to receive the world’s largest brain research prize financed by Lundbeck Foundation

This year, Denmark's answer to the Nobel Prize, the Brain Prize, goes to two Germans and two Americans. The 1 million euro prize will be presented by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik on 7 May in Copenhagen.

Four of the world's leading brain researchers are being awarded the Danish Brain Prize for ground-breaking technology regarded as a quantum leap in the field of modern brain research: These scientists have developed methods and tools for observing the way in which the living brain works and how the brain's cells communicate with each other.

The Brain Prize is for 1 million euros and is the world's largest brain research prize. Its recipients are two Germans, Winfried Denk and Arthur Konnerth, and two Americans, Karel Svoboda and David Tank. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik will present the prize on 7 May at a ceremony at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen.

The organisation behind the Brain Prize is the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation:

“The four scientists' invention is a major step towards actual understanding of the function of the human brain and the way in which the brain's network processes information. The technique also improves our ability to explain how serious diseases such as dementia or psychiatric disorders occur,” says the Foundation's chairman, Professor Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen.

Revolutionising the study of the brain

With the scientists' revolutionary invention, development and application of the two-photon microscope we are able to observe for the first time the way in which living brain cells communicate. Using the two-photon microscope, brain researchers can examine precisely the function of individual brain cells and, in particular, the way in which the cells communicate in networks.

The technology allows us to see into the active brains of mice. With the help of concentrated, pulsed infrared laser light, we can scan individual brain cells that have been pre-marked with fluorescent molecules. The laser light is able to focus sharply on a very small point in the mouse's brain cell, enabling us to observe the electrical and chemical signals emitted by the cells. This has not previously been possible.

The scientists have identified the signal paths that control the communication between neurons and form the basis for memory, and they have studied neuron activity in the networks that handle sight and hearing and control movement.  

Strengthening Danish brain research

There is a so-called outreach programme attached to the prize whereby prize winners come to Denmark to participate in conferences and seminars together with Danish brain researchers. The programme is organised in partnership with the three largest Danish universities and the Danish Society for Neuroscience.

“We are very pleased that the Brain Prize has become a locomotive for Danish brain research. It has put Danish brain research on the world map. The outreach programme also helps attract top international scientists for the great benefit of Danish research,” says Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen.

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Press contact:
Director Kim Krogsgaard
Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation, the Brain Prize
kk@thebrainprize.org
Mobile: +45 20 14 83 84

Press contact on the day:

Metha Loumann, journalist
ml@methamedia.dk
Mobile: +45 60 82 04 03

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About the research of the four prize winners

Both individually and collectively, the four prize winners have contributed unique inventions which have changed the way in which we understand the function of the brain.

Winfried Denk was the driving force behind the invention of the two-photon microscope. Together with David Tank and Karel Svoboda, he used the technique to visualise for the very first time the signals emitted by neurons. Arthur Konnerth expanded the technique to demonstrate the activity that occurs simultaneously in thousands of neurons in a living animal's brain, whereas Karel Svoboda has used two-photon microscopy to map the changes that occur in the brain's network when animals learn new skills.

About the Brain Prize
The one million euro Brain Prize is awarded by the charitable, non-profit Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation, which was founded and is fully financed by Lundbeck Foundation. This is the fifth time the prize will be awarded.

The Brain Prize is a personal prize, awarded to one or more scientists who have achieved distinction through outstanding contributions to European brain research. The aim of the prize is to strengthen the Danish brain research environment by increasing interaction with scientists in the rest of Europe.

Further details are available at: www.thebrainprize.org

 

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