MIT cognitive scientist recognized for her work on the organization of the human brain.
by Julie Pryor | April 25, 2018
Nancy Kanwisher, the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT, has been named a recipient of the 2018 Heineken Prize — the Netherlands’ most prestigious scientific prize — for her work on the functional organization of the human brain.
Kanwisher, who is a professor of brain and cognitive sciences and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, uses neuroimaging to study the functional organization of the human brain. Over the last 20 years her lab has played a central role in the identification of regions of the human brain that are engaged in particular components of perception and cognition. Many of these regions are very specifically engaged in a single mental function such as perceiving faces, places, bodies, or words, or understanding the meanings of sentences or the mental states of others. These regions form a “neural portrait of the human mind,” according to Kanwisher, who has assembled dozens of videos for the general public on her website, NancysBrainTalks.
“Nancy Kanwisher is an exceptionally innovative and influential researcher in cognitive neuropsychology and the neurosciences,” according to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the organization that selects the prizewinners. “She is being recognized with the 2018 C.L. de Carvalho-Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science for her highly original, meticulous and cogent research on the functional organization of the human brain.”
Kanwisher is among five international scientists who have been recognized by the academy with the biennial award. The other winners include biomedical scientist Peter Carmeliet of the University of Leuven, biologist Paul Hebert of the University of Guelph, historian John R. McNeill of Georgetown University, and biophysicist Xiaowei Zhuang of Harvard University.
The Heineken Prizes, each worth $200,000, are named after Henry P. Heineken (1886-1971); Alfred H. Heineken (1923-2002) and Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken (1954), chair of the Dr H.P. Heineken Foundation and the Alfred Heineken Fondsen Foundation, which fund the prizes. The laureates are selected by juries assembled by the academy and made up of leading Dutch and foreign scientists and scholars.
The Heineken Prizes will be presented at an award ceremony on Sept. 27 in Amsterdam.