By Nicholas Weiler
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute member Shaul Druckmann, PhD, has been named to receive a 2021 McKnight Foundation Scholar Award for his research into how the brain computes using activity distributed across populations and brain areas.
An assistant professor of neurobiology and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Stanford School of Medicine, Druckmann is one of seven young neuroscientists in the 2021 class of McKnight Scholars, each of whom will receive $225,000 in unrestricted funds over three years to facilitate the development of their research programs.
“This year’s class of Scholars showcases the diversity of young, brilliant, innovative neuroscientists from across the nation,” said Kelsey C. Martin MD, PhD, chair of the awards committee and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Together, the McKnight Scholars are tackling some of the most exciting questions in neuroscience today.”
Druckmann is interested in leveraging neuroscientists’ growing ability to record from — and stimulate — large populations of neurons to build theoretical models of how neural circuits communicate dynamically to store and process information. His goal is to better understand how these activity patterns produce complex behaviors ranging from simple perceptual decisions in mice to the unique patterns of human language — a project in collaboration with the Stanford Neural Prosthetic Systems lab.
Activity patterns of a large population of neurons in the mouse brain during movement planning. Colors represent different activity levels recorded using calcium imaging. (Image credit: Druckmann lab)
Since the McKnight Scholars award was introduced in 1977, it has funded more than 250 innovative investigators and spurred hundreds of important discoveries in neuroscience. Each year, current and past McKnight Scholars are invited to attend a series of meetings to share their science and ideas for advancing the field.
"This award is deeply meaningful to me not only because of the funding to advance my own group's scientific vision, but also because of the opportunity to attend McKnight meetings and interact with the other McKnight Scholars, who I think are doing some of the most interesting work in neuroscience,” Druckmann said. “As someone who thrives on collaboration, I'm really looking forward to being part of this community, and I'm honored to be included in this company."