2017 Patrick Suppes Prize in Psychology

Olaf Sporns receiving the Patrick Suppes Prize
From Left to Right: APS Executive Officer Bob Hauser, President Linda Greenhouse, Committee Chair Rich Shiffrin, and Suppes Prize Recipient Olaf Sporns

2017 Autumn General Meeting
Olaf Sporns

The recipient selected for the 2017 Patrick Suppes Prize for a body of outstanding work in mathematical or experimental psychology or cognitive neuroscience, is Olaf Sporns “in recognition of his transformation of the understanding of the relation of brain to behavior.”  Dr. Sporns is Distinguished Professor, Provost Professor, and Robert H. Shaffer Chair in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University.

Olaf Sporns has pioneered a new and revolutionary way of thinking about brain function – based on mapping and modeling the brain as a complex network.  He is the founder of brain connectomics, an approach that focuses on the way that highly distributed networks carry out behavior and cognition.  This work has had a highly significant impact in neuroscience, where scientists now see that brain structure and function depend on distributed and dynamic networks.

Sporns’ research has been formal, mathematical and computational.  His work pioneered the application of graph theory to the analysis of brain connectivity, resulting in the very first large-scale connectivity maps of the human brain.  These maps revealed a set of highly central network hubs that link distinct functional communities, communities that carry out behavioral tasks and processes.  He has also shown how the structural connections shape the ever changing patterns of the brain’s spontaneous and evoked activity.

The NIH-funded Human Connectome Project carries forward a research agenda that was strongly influenced by the ideas Sporns formulated years earlier. He and others are now contributing to connectome projects aimed at animal models, development across the life span, and implications for mental disorders.

The Patrick Suppes Prize honors accomplishments in three deeply significant scholarly fields, with the prize rotating each year between philosophy of science, psychology or neuroscience, and history of science.  The Patrick Suppes Prize in Psychology or Neuroscience is awarded for a body of outstanding work which consists of at least three articles published within the preceding six years.  The work considered in psychology is either in mathematical or experimental psychology.  The work considered in neuroscience is in system not cellular neuroscience.

The selection committee members were Richard M. Shiffrin (chair) Distinguished Professor, Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Indiana University: John G. Hildebrand, Regents Professor of Neuroscience, University of Arizona; and Jeroen G. W. Raaijmakers, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, University of Amsterdam.