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Celebrating 25 Years of Neuroscience Research


Sol Snyder
The Department of Neuroscience celebrates its silver anniversary on Nov. 11, marking 25 years of basic research on the brain and nervous system, with a star-studded, scientific symposium and gala dinner. A symposium on Nov. 10 celebrates the 35th anniversary of the Department of Neurology.

Speakers at the daylong symposium, an official satellite of the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, include three Nobel laureates. Actor John Astin will serve as master of ceremonies at the evening gala. Pianist Leon Fleisher will discuss how neuroscience research helped alleviate his disabling muscle spasms—and then perform for an audience of more than 1,000.

Even before the department was founded in 1980, the School of Medicine was known for its pioneering brain science. The first head of neurosurgery, Harvey Cushing, appointed in 1906, revolutionized pituitary surgery and showed that hormonally active tumors could cause gigantism. A few years later, Walter Dandy developed a way to identify brain tumors known as pneumoencephalography. Curt Richter explored the “biological clock,” which regulates sleep/wake cycles and pinpointed its location in the pineal gland. Vernon Mountcastle showed how the brain locates and focuses attention on objects. In the process he illuminated the columnar organization of the brain.

After 1980, discoveries began snowballing. Founding director Solomon Snyder recruited a team of top-notch researchers to his fledgling department, including four later ranked among the world’s premiere neuroscientists by Science Watch.

Snyder himself is the third most cited scientist of the past two decades; his work has been referenced by other researchers more than 63,000 times in journal articles and books. The 25-member primary neuroscience faculty (supplemented by 78 secondary and joint faculty appointments) is a strong team, socially, administratively and scientifically, says Snyder, who will step down once a successor is designated.

—Deborah Rudacille

 

 

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