Ann M. Graybiel, the Walter A. Roseblith Professor of Neuroscience and an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, has been named a recipient of the 2001 National Medal of Science, the White House announced Friday.
The National Medal of Science is the nation's highest science and technology honor. It recognizes individuals in a variety of fields for pioneering scientific research and for lifetime achievements. Fourteen National Medals of Science and five National Medals of Technology will be awarded by President Bush for the year 2001 in a White House ceremony June 13. Graybiel was the only woman medalist.
Graybiel's research focuses on the neurophysiology of the basal ganglia, brain regions implicated in the control of movement and cognition, as well as in the ability to acquire habits.
Disorders in the basal ganglia have been implicated in Parkinson's and Huntington's disease and in neuropsychiatric disorders such as Tourette's Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depression and addiction.
Graybiel commented, "It is an enormous privilege to be able to study the brain, and my goal is to help solve problems related to neurological and cognitive function." She thanked her coworkers for their efforts to discover the scientific substrate for human disorders affecting movement and cognition.
Graybiel's most recent studies of the basal ganglia bring together the fields of gene regulation, neurophysiology and behavioral observation.
Speaking of the 2001 science and technology laureates, Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, said, "Their contributions to the world around us are enormous. Their ideas have led to major breakthroughs."
Graybiel received the B.A., magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1964, the M.A. in biology from Tufts University in 1966 and the Ph.D. in psychology and brain science from MIT in 1971. She began teaching at MIT that same year.
Congress established the Medal of Science in 1959, administered by the National Science Foundation. Counting last week's recipients, there have been 401 medals bestowed on leading U.S. scientists and engineers.
Including Graybiel, 25 present or past members of the MIT faculty have received the National Medal of Science. The most recent recipients are economist Robert M. Solow, Institute Professor emeritus, and Kenneth N. Stevens, the Clarence J. Lebel Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, who were awarded medals in 1999.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 15, 2002.