Skip to content

McKnight awards $1.2 million for study of brain disorders

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience has selected four projects to receive the 2017 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 2017 and 2019.

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 and areas of the brain involved in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorders, and addiction.

“This year’s McKnight MCD awards represent a range of powerful and multidisciplinary studies that will help us understand the brain basis of memory including disease states when memory or other aspects of higher cognitive function fail,” said Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., chair of the awards committee and Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University.

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:

  • Donna J. Calu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland, School of Medicine
    Individual Differences in Attention Signaling in Amygdala Circuits
  • Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., Professor, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Matthew Shtrahman, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego
    Using Deep In Vivo Two-Photon Ca2+ Imaging to Study Temporal Pattern Separation
  • Gabriel Kreiman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurology, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School
    Behavioral, Physiological and Computational Mechanisms Underlying Episodic Memory Formation in the Human Brain
  • Boris Zemelman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, and Daniel Johnston, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Center for Learning and Memory, University of Texas at Austin
    Prefrontal Dysfunction in Fragile X Syndrome

With 71 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 Robert Edwards, MD, University of California, San Francisco; Howard Eichenbaum, PhD, Boston University; Ming Guo, MD, PhD, UCLA; Rich O’Brien, MD, PhD, Duke University; Steven E. Petersen, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis; and Matthew Shapiro, PhD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Letters of intent for the 2018 awards are due by March 27, 2017.


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, he had a personal interest in memory and its diseases.

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, Memory & Cognitive Disorder Awards

December 2016