Rewiring the brain: A conversation with three pioneers of neuroplasticity

August 25, 2016

Three scientists discuss their pioneering discoveries about neuroplasticity, the brain's remarkable capacity to change throughout our lifetimes. For their research, Eve Marder, Michael Merzenich and Carla Shatz were named the 2016 Kavli Prize laureates in Neuroscience.

An interview, published this week by The Kavli Foundation, highlights how their work has changed the way we view the brain as well as human potential.

"The science of neuroplasticity is slowly but surely transforming how we think about ourselves and our brains, and how we can build a stronger brain that provides us with a better life," said Michael Merzenich, Professor Emeritus in Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco. Merzenich is also co-founder of two companies, Posit Science and Scientific Learning, developing computer-based training tools for the brain.

Eve Marder, Professor of Neuroscience at Brandeis University, echoed that view: ""[W]e need to get the message out that after some kind of brain damage, there is much more capacity for recovery than people are often told," she said.

Each laureate has made unique contributions to our understanding of how the brain is remodeled in response to neural activity and experience, from the level of synapses, the junctions between neurons, to circuits to regions of the cerebral cortex. This knowledge may lead to better treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders, as well as new ways to keep the brain healthy.

"We know that in mice, there are molecular brakes that limit brain plasticity with age. If these molecular brakes are removed, then it is possible to generate much more juvenile or childlike plasticity in the adult mouse brain, including the ability to make new functional connections between neurons. That's exciting because it suggests that the adult brain has much more capacity for change than was previously thought," said Carla Shatz, Professor of Neurobiology and of Biology at Stanford University and Director of Bio-X, an interdisciplinary biomedical research institute.

The complete interview is freely available at

The three Neuroscience Laureates will be honored at the Kavli Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on September 6, 2016. The prizes were announced June 2 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters:
About The Kavli Prizes

The Kavli Prizes recognize scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. Consisting of a scroll, medal and cash award of one million dollars, a prize in each of these areas is awarded every two years beginning in 2008.

Kavli Prize recipients are chosen biennially by three prize committees comprised of distinguished international scientists recommended by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society.

The 2016 Kavli Prizes will be awarded in Oslo, Norway, on Sept. 6. For detailed information on each of the prizes, the 2016 laureates and their work, and all the Kavli Prize Week events, please see the Kavli Prize website:

The Kavli Prizes are a partnership between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation (USA) and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

The Kavli Foundation

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