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2017 Karl Spencer Lashley Award

2017 Spring General Meeting

Michael N. Shadlen

The American Philosophical Society is pleased to award the 2017 Karl Spencer Lashley Award to Michael Shadlen in recognition of his pioneering experimental and theoretical studies of decision-making, identifying neural mechanisms that accumulate and convert sensory information toward behavioral choices.

Michael Shadlen studies how sensory information guides behavioral choice. His experience as a clinical neurologist led to an interest in how the brain makes decisions on the basis of external evidence, in particular how brain mechanisms combine information arriving over time to form choices. Guided by anatomical knowledge of sensorimotor circuitry, he recorded in areas of the parietal and frontal cortex—structures that link visual perception to eye movement selection—while animals performed rigorously controlled decision-making tasks. He and his colleagues discovered that these association areas integrate information using computations akin to those used in cryptanalysis and statistical hypothesis testing. Understanding the process of choice is fundamental to understanding cognition and behavior. Shadlen’s work has combined elegant biological and behavioral experimentation with rigorous theory and analysis to uncover the brain basis for this fundamental element of cognition.

Dr. Shadlen earned a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.D. at Brown University. He is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University and an Investigator at 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. His entire scientific life was spent in the study of behavior and its neural basis. Dr. Lashley’s famous experiments on the brain mechanisms of learning, memory and intelligence helped inaugurate the modern era of integrative neuroscience, and the Lashley Award recognizes innovative work that continues exploration in the field.

The members of the selection committee were William T. Newsome III (chair), Professor of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; John Dowling, Gordon and Llura Gund Research Professor of Neurosciences Emeritus, Harvard University; Ann M. Graybiel, Institute Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Eric Knudsen, Sewell Professor of Neurobiology Emeritus, Stanford University School of Medicine; John G. Hildebrand, Regents Professor of Neuroscience, University of Arizona, Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Sciences; Edvard Moser, Professor of Neuroscience, Director, Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; and Larry R. Squire, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry,