[Comp-neuro] Wilfrid Rall awarded Swartz Prize
reinoud at tnb.ua.ac.be
Fri Nov 7 16:53:32 CET 2008
ANNOUNCEMENT: Wilfrid Rall awarded Swartz Prize.
The 2008 inaugural Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational
Neuroscience has been awarded to Wilfrid Rall.
This prize is awarded to “an individual whose activities over a
period of time have produced a significant cumulative contribution to
theoretical models or computational methods in neuroscience, or to a
person who has made a particularly noteworthy advance over the past
several years in theoretical or computational neuroscience”
The prize, which includes $25,000, will be presented in this and
following years at the American Society for Neuroscience’ annual
The award to Rall will be presented at the Presidential Special
Lecture, Monday 5pm, November 17, 2008. Dr. Rall will give the
keynote address at the 16th Annual Dynamical Neuroscience Satellite
Symposium on Thursday 7pm, November 13, 2008.
Rall’s cable theory for dendrites paid the first rigorous
mathematical attention to dendritic function. Although the beauty and
the abundance of dendrites (gray matter) was already appreciated in
the late 19th century, their biophysical and computational functions
were completely neglected. Until Rall’s work, starting in the late
1950s, the prevailing model (for the brain of both experimentalists
and theoreticians) was that of a “point neuron” – neglecting such
critical phenomena as attenuation and shape change of synaptic
potentials due to dendritic cable filtering; nonlinear synaptic
summation locally in the dendritic tree, and active dendritic
processing. Rall’s theory, and his pioneering use of computer
simulation, provided clear and testable experimental predictions, and
has paved the way for how we view dendrites today: rich with
nonlinear receptors and ion channels; in many cases operating locally
at the level of individual branches and spines, and with the ability
to change morphologically to subserve the ongoing demands of the
environment around us. As our brain is mostly composed of dendrites,
one may conclude that Rall’s work has made us know ourselves
On behalf of the community, we wholeheartedly congratulate Wilfrid
Rall for this well-deserved honor.
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