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NINDS Grantee Wins 'Genius' Award

NINDS grantee Dr. Gina G. Turrigiano, an assistant professor in the department of biology and the Center for Complex Systems at Brandeis University, recently won a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Each year the foundation awards unrestricted, 5-year fellowships — informally called the MacArthur "genius" awards — to talented individuals who show extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits, and a marked capacity for self-direction. Turrigiano was one of 25 people who received the $500,000 fellowships this year.

Dr. Gina G. Turrigiano

The purpose of the fellowship program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creativity for the benefit of society at large. Individuals of all ages and from all fields are selected. The fellowships are considered unique because they offer 5 years of "no strings attached" support. Recipients have the flexibility to pursue their work without having to report back to the foundation. Individuals cannot apply for the fellowships, they must be nominated.

Nominees are reviewed for their achievements; however, according to the foundation, the fellowships are not rewards for past accomplishments, but rather are investments in the recipients' potential to effect positive change.

Turrigiano has furthered scientific understanding of how brain cells modify their activity in response to changing conditions. Using such research techniques as cell culture, electrophysiology and computational modeling, she identified the mechanisms that individual neurons use to maintain their function within an optimal range. She discovered that neurons can maintain their activity level even when the number and strength of the inputs they receive are constantly changing. Her studies have led to a new approach to understanding normal and abnormal brain processes.

Turrigiano received her bachelor of arts degree from Reed College in 1984, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, in 1990.

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