David Tank has been awarded the Brain Prize, a top neuroscience prize, for the development and application of two-photon microscopy, a tool that transformed brain research. Tank shares the prize, which is awarded annually by the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation, with Winfried Denk, Arthur Konnerth and Karel Svoboda.
The Brain Prize recognizes highly original and influential advances in neuroscience and is awarded to one or more scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the field and who are still active in research.
The development of the two-photon microscope, for which Tank and his collaborators were recognized, is a technique that has dramatically changed the way researchers are able to study the brain. It combines advanced techniques from physics and biology to allow scientists to examine the fine structures of the brain in real time.
“It was exciting, and a lot of fun, to work with my colleagues awarded with this year’s Brain Prize in the development and application of two-photon microscopy to the study of the nervous system,” says Tank.
Using this technology, researchers are able to examine the function of individual neurons with high precision and identify how neurons communicate with each other to form neural networks. Understanding neural networks sheds light not only on how connections between neurons are established in the developing brain, but also on the mechanisms behind unobservable behaviors.
“Analysis of the data produced by this method provides new insights into the neural coding and dynamics underlying cognitive abilities like memory and decision-making, processes that the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain aims to decode,” says Tank.
The four Brain Prize recipients will split one million euros, which will be presented by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark on May 7 in Copenhagen.