Skip to content ↓

Earl Miller wins MERIT award from National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health
Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Photo courtesy of the Picower Institute

Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience, was recently awarded the National Institute of Mental Health’s Method to Extend Research In Time (MERIT) award. Miller received this honor for his work on the prefrontal cortex and its role in executive brain functions.

The overall objective of the MERIT Award program is to provide productive investigators with a history of exceptional talent, imagination, and with a record of preeminent scientific achievements the opportunity to continue making fundamental contributions of lasting scientific value. The MERIT award provides long-term, stable support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are likely to continue in the future and is intended to foster their continued creativity and lessen the administrative burdens associated with the preparation and submission of research grant applications.

Through the MERIT Award, a principal investigator may receive up to 10 years of research support in two five-year segments without the need to prepare a renewal application after five years of support.

A leader in the field

Miller received his BA in psychology from Kent State University in 1985 followed by a PhD in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University in 1990. He joined the MIT faculty in 1995.

In addition to the MERIT award, Miller’s scientific work has earned him a number of important awards and honors including the Mathilde Solowey Award in the Neurosciences, election to the International Neuropsychological Symposium, fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award, the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, the Pew Scholar Award, the John Merck Scholar Award, and the McKnight Scholar Award. Miller serves on the editorial boards of major journals in neuroscience, and as well as international advisory boards. His paper, “An Integrative Theory of Prefrontal Cortex Function,” has been designated a Current Classic by Science Watch.

The prefrontal cortex in context

The Miller lab investigates the brain’s executive function, which organizes thoughts and directs them toward goals. The lab examines how the brain learns rules, how attention is focused and how thoughts are held “in mind.” The executive function implements the mental flexibility needed to make sense of a complex and dynamic world. By examining the role that the pre-frontal cortex plays in executive functions, Miller and his lab are providing important insights that potentially have a far-reaching impact, and also are highly consequential to our daily lives. Knowing the functions and limitations of this part of the brain could prove crucial in understanding brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News

The book cover has bright yellow lights like fireflies, and says, “The Transcendent Brain: Spirituality in the Age of Science; Alan Lightman, best-selling author of Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.” On the right is a portrait of Alan Lightman.

Minds wide open

Alan Lightman’s new book asks how a sense of transcendence can exist in brains made of atoms, molecules, and neurons.

Read full story