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Buckner, Sinha Named 2007 Winners of the NAS Troland Research Award

The 2007 Troland Research Award goes to Randy L. Buckner and Pawan Sinha.

By Nicolle Singer

The Troland Research Award, established by the bequest of Leonard T. Troland, is awarded annually by the National Academy of Sciences to two early career psychologists (age 40 or younger). Since 1984 this prestigious award has recognized unusual achievement in psychological science. Each $50,000 award is intended to facilitate continued innovation in a promising program of research.

The 2007 Troland Research Award goes to Randy L. Buckner, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Professor, FAS Department of Psychology and Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, and to Pawan Sinha, Associate Professor of Computational Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The awards will be presented at the Academy's 144th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in April.

How are memories formed?

Buckner was chosen to receive the Troland Award in order to recognize his contributions to our understanding of the human brain mechanisms involved in memory. An APA Fellow since 2005, Buckner has used his background in psychology and neuroscience to pioneer the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for the study of human memory. He was also an early proponent of event-related fMRI, which makes it possible to measure brain activity rapidly enough to track cerebral blood flow as people access specific memories.

After initially studying basic memory processes, Buckner's work expanded to include changes in these systems during normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. The study of Alzheimer's disease was not originally part of his research, but he was able to make it part of his lab's focus after several family members were affected by the devastating disease. Buckner has been involved in projects that have improved memory in older adults as shown by fMRI evidence, and is currently considering how to conduct the next step of this research: improving memory in real world conditions.

How are objects recognized?

Sinha was chosen to receive the Troland Award in acknowledgment of his research on visual cognition, which studies vision from a cognitive science perspective. He currently focuses on learning and recognition in visual cognition, using both human experiments and computer based models. Sinha's research on the visual recognition of objects, patterns, and faces has been applied to some of the most basic questions in neuroscience such as how people see.

His research on sight and cognition has led to a mutually beneficial combination of outreach and research, in which his lab studies the visual skills of children in India who receive treatment for congenital blindness. Because little is known about how people learn to see and to recognize, this project has the goal of creating effective rehabilitation methods for children who become sighted. This methodology complements the usual method of studying object learning in infants. The data about visual skill acquisition in these children helps elucidate how object concepts are learned in the human brain.

The Troland Research Award program is facilitated by the National Academy of Sciences.

More information, including a list of past recipients, can be obtained at the National Academy of Sciences Awards website.