2013 Gruber Neuroscience Prize
Eve Marder, PhD, 65, a professor of biology at Brandeis University, has been a pioneer in the study of neural circuits, particularly how the properties and dynamics of such circuits give rise to specific behaviors. Early in her career, while researching the small group of neurons, called the stomatogastric ganglion system (STG), that controls digestive muscles in lobsters and other crustaceans, Marder demonstrated that such circuits are not “hard-wired” to produce a single output, or behavior. Instead, she reported, the circuits are remarkably plastic and change function frequently in response to various neuromodulators. That discovery marked a paradigm shift in how scientists viewed the architecture and function of all neural circuits, including those in the human brain. Marder has also been a pioneer in the field of theoretical neuroscience, which uses computational and mathematical tools to quantify what nervous systems do and how they operate. As part of that effort, she co-developed an experimental computational tool, the dynamic clamp, which is used worldwide for the study of neural systems at the cellular and circuitry levels. More recently, Marder has focused her research on how neural circuits maintain homeostasis over long periods of time despite constantly reconfiguring themselves—research that has broad implications for the study of many neurological disorders and diseases.