[Comp-neuro] Wilfrid Rall awarded Swartz Prize (correction)

Reinoud Maex reinoud at tnb.ua.ac.be
Mon Nov 10 13:03:19 CET 2008

With correction from percipient subscriber noting that the meeting at  
which the prize will be awarded

" ... is not the American anything, but 'The Society for  
Neuroscience' transcending any national or regional boundary or  

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  
significantly better.
On behalf of the community, we wholeheartedly congratulate Wilfrid  
Rall for this well-deserved honor.
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