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McKnight awards $1.2 million for study of memory and cognitive disorders

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience has selected four projects to receive the 2018 Memory and Cognitive Disorders Awards. The awards will total $1.2 million over three years for research on the biology of brain diseases, with each project receiving $300,000 between 2018 and 2020.

The Memory and Cognitive Disorders (MCD) Awards support innovative research by U.S. scientists who are studying neurological and psychiatric diseases, especially those related to memory and cognition. The awards encourage collaboration between basic and clinical neuroscience to translate laboratory discoveries about the brain and nervous system into diagnoses and therapies to improve human health.

The awards will support studies of genes, genetic mutations, and areas of the brain involved in memory formation and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Members of our selection committee are particularly enthusiastic about the wide range of approaches we were able to fund this year, from projects that marry virtual reality technology to the neuroscience of memory, to high level cognitive physiology, to genetic approaches,” said Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., chair of the awards committee and Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University. “All are trying to get at just how our brains respond to and are influenced by the environment.”

The awards are inspired by the interests of William L. McKnight, who founded The McKnight Foundation in 1953 and wanted to support research on diseases affecting memory. His daughter, Virginia McKnight Binger, and The McKnight Foundation board established the McKnight neuroscience program in his honor in 1977.

Up to four awards are given each year. This year’s awardees are:

Elizabeth Buffalo, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Physiology & Biophysics, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Chief, Neuroscience Division, Washington National Primate Research Center

Neural Dynamics of Memory and Cognition in the Primate Hippocampal Formation

Mauricio R. Delgado, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology, Rutgers University
The Regulation of Negative Autobiographical Memories via Positive Emotion-focused Strategies

Bruce E. Herring, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Section of Neurobiology, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, University of Southern California
Understanding Synaptic Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Steve Ramirez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences,

Boston University, Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering
Artificially Modulating Positive and Negative Memories to Alleviate Maladaptive Fear Responses

With 96 letters of intent received this year, the awards are highly competitive. A committee of distinguished scientists reviews the letters and invites a select few researchers to submit full proposals. In addition to Suzuki, the committee includes B.J. Casey, Ph.D., Yale University; Robert Edwards, M.D., University of California, San Francisco; Ming Guo, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA; Steven E. Petersen, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis; and Matthew Shapiro, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Please note that the late Howard Eichenbaum, Ph.D., Boston University, served on the committee through July 2017.

Letters of intent for the 2019 awards are dueby March 26, 2018.

About the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent organization funded solely by The McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and led by a board of prominent neuroscientists from around the country. The McKnight Foundation has supported neuroscience research since 1977. The Foundation established the Endowment Fund in 1986 to carry out one of the intentions of founder William L. McKnight (1887–1978), one of the early leaders of the 3M Company.

The Endowment Fund makes three types of awards each year. In addition to the Memory and Cognitive Disorders Awards, they are the McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards, providing seed money to develop technical inventions to advance brain research; and the McKnight Scholar Awards, supporting neuroscientists in the early stages of their research careers.

Topic: The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience

December 2017