Harvard Medical School Professor Michael Greenberg Wins Brain Prize for Neuroplasticity News

Harvard Medical School Professor Michael E. Greenberg, along with Cambridge University Professor Christine E. Holt and Max Planck Institute Director Erin M. Schumann, receive the 2023 Brain Prize for their decades-long work on brain plasticity Did.

The Brain Prize is the world’s largest award in neuroscience and was first awarded in 2011 by the Danish Lundbeck Foundation. The 2023 award awarded approximately $1.45 million to three of his researchers, including Greenberg.

Greenberg joined HMS in 1986 and served as Head of the Department of Neurobiology from 2008 to 2022. He holds a BS in Chemistry from Wesleyan University and completed his PhD. He holds a PhD in Biochemistry from Rockefeller University.

“Brain Prize 2023 winners have made groundbreaking discoveries by showing how the synthesis of new proteins is triggered in different neuronal compartments, thereby impacting our behavior over a lifetime. We have guided brain development and plasticity in a way,” says Richard GM Morris. The Brain Prize Selection Committee Chair said in a press release:

Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to respond and adapt to new information throughout life, allowing the brain to function for decades. Greenberg’s research is focused on understanding how the brain responds to external signals and life experiences to regulate genes that make proteins necessary for brain plasticity.

“Mike’s sophisticated research highlights the power of fundamental discovery as the most important fuel for scientific progress,” said HMS Dean George Q. Daily ’82. “His impressive achievements, including this prestigious honor, show how much is possible when researchers unwaveringly follow their curiosity and scientific passion.”

While working as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Edward Ziff, then a professor of biochemistry and neuroscience at the New York University School of Medicine, Greenberg observed that mammalian cells can be called cacti within minutes of an external stimulus. discovered to initiate gene expression. -fos increases the production of Fos protein.

According to Greenberg, this rate of induction points to a possible mechanism by which nature and nurture work together to coordinate brain plasticity.

“I think over the years we’ve run into a lot of skepticism,” Greenberg said at a press conference. “How do proteins that act in the nucleus affect distant synapses thought to encode memory?”

As an assistant professor at HMS, Greenberg discovered the relationship between neurotransmitters and changes in gene activity. He characterized a signaling cascade in which the release of neurotransmitters by upstream neurons causes calcium influx and, through the activation of transcription factors such as Fos, eventual gene expression changes in the nuclei of downstream neurons. attached.

According to Greenberg, this indicates that Fos is acting as “a master regulator of sorts.”

“It works to turn on a complex program involving many additional proteins that act at the synapse and alter synaptic function in myriad ways,” said Greenberg. We believe that mutations in many components of activity-dependent gene regulatory pathways lead to impaired brain development.”

Greenberg’s research provides insight into the origins of developmental brain disorders in which neuroplastic mechanisms are impaired, such as Rett syndrome and autism.

“I think our work and many others, coupled with the potential of gene therapy, really give us hope for real therapeutic advances,” said Greenberg. I am very optimistic about it, but it will take a lot of hard work and many years of hard work.”

At a press conference, Greenberg said he would use the money to visit fellow winners Holt and Schumann in Europe.

“Maybe I’ll try to come up with some good reasons for which I can put some of the prize money, and maybe in general a little more than a trip to a place in the world I’ve never been. I will travel,” he said.

— Staff Writer Ammy M. Yuan can be reached at ammy.yuan@thecrimson.com.

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