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Prestigious International Champalimaud Vision Award to US Scientists

NEW YORK, June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The Champalimaud Foundation, one of the world's largest international scientific institutions, announced today that Dr. J. Anthony Movshon, Director of New York University's Center for Neural Studies, and Dr. William T. Newsome, Investigator at The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University, are the recipients of its 2010 Vision Award.  The prestigious Champalimaud Vision Award, often called the "Nobel Prize for Vision", comes with a $1.3 million prize, the largest monetary prize in the filed of vision and one of the largest scientific and humanitarian prizes in the world.

This year's Vision Award recognizes the work of both Dr. Movshon and Dr. Newsome over the last 30 years.  Working at times together and at other times separately, these outstanding researchers have had a major impact on scientists' understanding of how the brain reconstructs images, so that human beings can perceive, interpret and act in the world.  By building a bridge between psychophysics and human behavior on the one hand and the physiology of individual neurons and what they compute on the other, these two neuroscientists have shed ground-breaking light upon how the brain reconstructs visual images.

Leonor Beleza, President of The Champalimaud Foundation, said, "Visual perception starts with the eyes, but it happens in the brain.  Over a 30 year period, the work of Dr. Movshon and Dr. Newsome has taken this axiom to new scientific levels of understanding.  Because of these two outstanding neuroscientists, we now have a fundamental appreciation for the role of neurons in how we see things move about in the world.  Their ground-breaking work, taken together and individually, has laid the basis for continued research on how the brain and its processes impact vision and perception.  We are very proud to recognize Drs. Movshon and Newsome as the recipients of the 2010 Champalimaud Vision Award."

In his early studies, Dr. Movshon contributed to the understanding of how the brain represents the form and motion of objects, identifying for the first time neural circuits computing motion perception in the brain's middle temporal lobe (MT).  In a joint 1989 study, that is today considered a classic, Drs. Movshon and Newsome demonstrated that neurons in the MT visual area are responsible for perceptual judgments about direction.  By monitoring neuron responses, they could accurately predict decisions about perception, thus linking perception to specific activity within a neural circuit.  Dr. Newsome demonstrated that by altering the activity of neurons, perceptual performance could be either improved or diminished.

These studies proved that the activity of neurons in the brain's MT is necessary in order for human beings to see moving objects in the world.  By unequivocally demonstrating this fact, Drs. Movshon and Newsome paved the way for studies of the mental processes that link perception to action and for a greater understanding of the complex computations that underlie human decision-making and behavior.

The Champalimaud Vision Award

Established by The Champalimaud Foundation in 2006 and referred to as "the Nobel Prize for Vision" by the former President of India, APJ Kalam, the Vision Award has the support of the World Health Organization's (WHO) "VISION 2020:  The Right to Sight Initiative".  In order to provide maximum support for the fight against blindness, the Award concentrates both on practical blindness prevention and on scientific research.  In odd number years, The Vision Award is given for blindness prevention on the ground, particularly in developing countries.  In even numbered years, the Award recognizes outstanding scientific research.  

In 2007, The Vision Award was presented to India's Aravind Eye Care System; in 2008, it was jointly awarded to Drs. King-Wai Yau and Dr. Jeremy Nathans of Johns Hopkins University; and in 2009, Helen Keller International was the recipient.  The Award is given to recipients for outstanding achievement, and the funds are to be used in any way that furthers and amplifies the recipients' scientific efforts.  

The Jury Panel for The Vision Award is comprised of leading international scientists, including two Nobel Laureates, and prominent public figures.  The are: Alfred Sommer (Johns Hopkins University), Mark Bear (MIT), Nobel Laureate Susumu Tonegawa (MIT), Carla Shatz (Stanford University), Joshua Sanes (Harvard University), Paul A. Sieving (NIH), Gullapalli N. Rao (LV Prasad Eye Institute and International Center for Eyecare Education), Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen (Harvard University), Jose Cuhna-Vaz (Coimbra University), Jacques Delors (former President, European Commission), Antonio Guterres (former Prime Minister of Portugal).

The Champalimaud Foundation

The Champalimaud Foundation is a private organization dedicated to the advancement of biomedical science.  With an endowment of euro 500,000,000, the Foundation's work is focused on three core areas: neuroscience research, cancer research, and an outreach program to support the fight against blindness.  Based in Lisbon, Portugal, the Foundation's new research center (Champalimaud Center for the Unknown) is currently under construction and expected to open in Q4 2010.

SOURCE The Champalimaud Foundation
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