2010 Karl Spencer Lashley Award

Spring General Meeting
William T. Newsome

The American Philosophical Society awarded the 2010 Karl Spencer Lashley Award to William T. Newsome. The citation read: “in recognition of his pioneering studies of the primate visual system demonstrating the relation between perception and the activity of individual neurons.”  The award was presented by the Society’s President, Baruch S. Blumberg, Fox Chase Distinguished Scientist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and Distinguished Scientist at NASA Fundamental Space Biology.

William Newsome has provided the most compelling evidence for the relationship between the activity of individual neurons in the brain and visual perception. In studies of motion-sensitive neurons in the primate cerebral cortex, he combined sophisticated behavioral paradigms and precise physiological analysis to reveal the causal relationships between cortical neurons and the perception of visual motion. He showed that the firing of a small cluster of neurons correlated with the ability to report the direction of visual motion, that activating the neurons with microstimulation biased the monkey’s judgment of the direction of motion, and that discrete lesions reduced the ability to make these motion judgments. Based on these experiments, Newsome has developed and tested new hypotheses about how neuronal signals in the brain give rise to perception and perceptual decisions.

Dr. Newsome received his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology.  He is currently Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The Karl Spencer Lashley Award was established in 1957 by a gift from Dr. Lashley, a member of the Society and a distinguished neuroscientist and neuropsychologist.  The award is made in recognition of work on the integrative neuroscience of behavior.  At the time of his death, Dr. Lashley was Emeritus Research Professor of Neuropsychology at Harvard University and Emeritus Director of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology in Florida.  Lashley's contemporaries considered his experimental work as daring and original.  His entire scientific life was spent in the study of behavior and its neural basis, or as he phrased it: “the discovery of principles of nervous integration which are as yet completely unknown.”  Lashley’s famous experiments on the brain mechanisms of learning, memory and intelligence helped inaugurate the modern era of integrative neuroscience.

The selection committee consisted of chair Larry R. Squire, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Neurosciences, and Psychology at the University of California, San Diego; John E. Dowling, Gordon and Llura Gund Professor of Neurosciences at Harvard University; Fernando Nottebohm, Dorothea L. Leonhardt Professor at the Laboratory of Animal Behavior, Rockefeller University; and Richard F. Thompson, Keck Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences in the Neuroscience Program at the University of Southern California.