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MIT's Ann Graybiel awarded National Medal of Science

President Bush presents the National Medal of Science to Ann M. Graybiel from  MIT during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, June 12,  2002.
President Bush presents the National Medal of Science to Ann M. Graybiel from MIT during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, June 12, 2002.
Photo / AP Photo/ Doug Mills

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Ann M. Graybiel, Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Neuroscience and 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 today.

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 their lifetime achievements. Fourteen National Medals of Science and five National Medals of Technology were awarded by President Bush for the year 2001. 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 our 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 co-workers 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 (NSF), said, "Their contributions to the world around us are enormous. Their ideas have led to major breakthroughs."

Graybiel received the B.A. degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1964, the M.A. degree in biology from Tufts University in 1966 and the Ph.D. degree in psychology and brain science from MIT in 1971. She began teaching at MIT in 1971.

Congress established the Medal of Science in 1959, which NSF administers. Counting today's recipients, there have been 401 medals bestowed on leading US scientists and engineers.

Including Graybiels, a total of 25 present or past members of the MIT faculty have received the National Medal of Science . Two MIT faculty members -- economist Robert M. Solow, Institute Professor emeritus, and Kenneth N. Stevens, Clarence J. Lebel Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science -- were awarded National Medals of Science in 1999.

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