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Three neuroscientists whose research overturned decades-old notions about how and whether the brain can change in response to experience have each won a $1 million Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced on Thursday.
In an event live-streamed from Oslo to the World Science Festival in New York City, academy president Dr. Ole Sejersted said that Michael Merzenich of the University of California, San Francisco, Carla Shatz of Stanford University, and Eve Marder of Brandeis University were being honored for discovering “mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain function.”
The discoveries have led to the development of cochlear implants for hearing loss and to therapies that exploit the brain’s power of “neuroplasticity” to recover from stroke, depression, Tourette syndrome, and other conditions — all without the use of drugs.
Contrary to longstanding assumptions that the brain was “hard-wired,” these three neuroscientists showed, beginning in the 1980s, that the experiences people have — and even the thoughts they think — can act back on the physical structure of the brain to change it.
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