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2011 Karl Spencer Lashley Award

Spring General Meeting
Joseph E. LeDoux

The American Philosophical Society awarded the 2011 Karl Spencer Lashley Award to Joseph E. LeDoux. The citation read: “in recognition of his seminal studies of the neural mechanisms of emotional learning, particularly fear learning and fear memory.”  The award was presented by the Society’s President, Clyde F. Barker, Donald Guthrie Professor, Department of Surgery, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Joseph LeDoux has carried out pioneering and comprehensive studies of the neuroscience of fear learning and fear memory.  In an animal model, he traced the fear processing circuit from sensory systems to the amygdala, identified the lateral nucleus of the amygdala as a key sensory region and a site for synaptic plasticity, and showed that the connections from the lateral to the central nucleus are essential for processing fear responses.  He has also elucidated the phenomenon of extinction, related extinction to the medial prefrontal cortex, and shown how medial prefrontal cortex interacts with the amygdala in extinction.  His work has substantial clinical relevance for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Dr. LeDoux is currently the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science and University Professor at the Center for Neural Science at New York University.  He is also the director of the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety, a multi-university Center in New York City.  He received his Ph.D. in 1977 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

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 Lashley Award Selection Committee consisted of chair Larry R. Squire, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Neurosciences, and Psychology at University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and Research Career Scientist at VA Medical Center, San Diego; John E. Dowling, Gordon and Llura Gund Professor of Neurosciences at Harvard University; Fernando Nottebohm, Dorothea L. Leonhardt Professor in the Laboratory of Animal Behavior at Rockefeller University; and Richard F. Thompson, Keck Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences in the Neuroscience Program at University of Southern California.