Marder, third from right, with her fellow awardeesSeptember 11, 2016

By Lawrence Goodaman | BrandeisNOW

At a ceremony at the Oslo Concert Hall on September 6, 2016, Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon bestowed the honor on Marder, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. The event was hosted by Alan Alda. 

Marder’s research on small neural circuits found in lobsters and crabs has revolutionized our understanding of the fundamental nature of neuronal circuit operation, including how neuromodulators control behavioral outputs and how the stability of circuits is maintained over time. 

In a press release, The Kavli Foundation said Marder and the two other neuroscience awardees — Michael Merzenich and Carla Shatz  — had "revealed that brain circuits are 'sculpted' from long before birth through adulthood. They have also helped explain how the brain achieves such a fine balance — between the adaptability that allows us to learn and to heal and the stability that maintains our abilities and memories for a lifetime."

In late August, the Foundation arranged a discussion between Marder, Merzenich and Shatz. Marder answered a question about the brain's ability to maintain stability even as it undergoes constant change. She said: 

It’s magical how brains can incorporate changes without destroying function. Just think about it. Every time you have a long-lived cell, you’re constantly replacing the components. This turnover allows for plasticity but it also has to be kept in check. That is at the cellular scale. At a larger scale, you don’t want to train a brain to do something better at the risk of losing its ability to do something else that’s really important.

A full transcript of the discussion can be found here

The Kavli Prizes are awarded biennially in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. 

The Kavli Prize is a partnership between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the US-based Kavli Foundation and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Each laureate receives a gold medal and scroll, and each field splits $1 million.