Robert Desimone receives Gerard Prize in Neuroscience for his career contributions to understanding cortical function in the visual system.

McGovern Institute Director receives highest honor from the Society for Neuroscience


The Society for Neuroscience will present its highest honor, the Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience, to McGovern Institute Director Robert Desimone at its annual meeting today.

The Gerard Prize is named for neuroscientist Ralph W. Gerard who helped establish the Society for Neuroscience, and honors “outstanding scientists who have made significant contributions to neuroscience throughout their careers.” Desimone will share the $30,000 prize with Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Jon Kaas.

Desimone is being recognized for his career contributions to understanding cortical function in the visual system. His seminal work on attention spans decades, including the discovery of a neural basis for covert attention in the temporal cortex and the creation of the biased competition model, suggesting that attention is biased towards material relevant to the task. More recent work revealed how synchronized brain rhythms help enhance visual processing. Desimone also helped discover both face cells and neural populations that identify objects even when the size or location of the object changes. His long list of contributions includes mapping the extrastriate visual cortex, publishing the first report of columns for motion processing outside the primary visual cortex, and discovering how the temporal cortex retains memories. Desimone’s work has moved the field from broad strokes of input and output to a more nuanced understanding of cortical function that allows the brain to make sense of the environment.

At its annual meeting, beginning today, the Society will honor Desimone and other leading researchers who have made significant contributions to neuroscience — including the understanding of cognitive processes, drug addiction, neuropharmacology, and theoretical models — with this year’s Outstanding Achievement Awards.

“The Society is honored to recognize this year’s awardees, whose groundbreaking research has revolutionized our understanding of the brain, from the level of the synapse to the structure and function of the cortex, shedding light on how vision, memory, perception of touch and pain, and drug
addiction are organized in the brain,” SfN President Barry Everitt, said. “This exceptional group of neuroscientists has made fundamental discoveries, paved the way for new therapeutic approaches, and introduced new tools that will lay the foundation for decades of research to come.”