Ed Boyden - Institute faculty share prestigious neuroscience prize
Ed Boyden and Feng Zhang awarded the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize
April 26, 2012
MIT faculty members Ed Boyden and Feng Zhang, along with Karl Deisseroth of Stanford
University, have been awarded the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize for developing a way to
control brain activity using light. The Perl prize carries a $10,000 award and is given
annually to recognize a seminal achievement in neuroscience. Four of the 12 past
recipients were later awarded Nobel Prizes.
Boyden, Zhang and Deisseroth share the 2012 Perl prize for developing a technology
known as "optogenetics," in which neurons are genetically engineered to respond to light.
This allows researchers to control the activity of specific cell types with great precision,
and to probe the brain's intricate circuits in ways that would have been unimaginable a few
years ago. Optogenetics has already led to major advances in basic neuroscience, and the
method has great promise for understanding and potentially for treating a wide range of
Boyden is a faculty member in the MIT Media Lab and an investigator at the McGovern
Institute for Brain Research. Zhang is also a McGovern Investigator, with a joint
appointment in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and at the Broad Institute.
Zhang and Boyden will deliver their prize lectures at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill on Sept. 20.