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Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., to Receive Pitt’s Dickson Prize at Science 2015—Unleashed!

PITTSBURGH, May 21, 2015 – A psychiatrist and scientist who developed new techniques that are now widely used to examine the activity of neurons in the living brain will receive the University of Pittsburgh’s 2015 Dickson Prize in Medicine.
 
Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., will accept the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s most prestigious honor during Science 2015—Unleashed!, a showcase of the region’s latest research in science, engineering, medicine and computation that will be held from Oct. 7 to 9 at Alumni Hall in Oakland. Dr. Deisseroth is the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
 
“Optical methods developed by Dr. Deisseroth and his team have literally shone a light on the function of neurons,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “They have shared these groundbreaking methods with thousands of other labs, stimulating new research in major depression, the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and other psychiatric and neurological illnesses.”
 
Dr. Deisseroth and his colleagues created a technology called optogenetics, which uses light to precisely control millisecond-scale activity in certain cell types in the brains of mammals. The approach allows researchers to study how neuronal activity gives rise to behavior in freely moving mammals. A practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Deisseroth also has used optogenetics to study aspects of depression, anxiety, reward and motivation in animals. 
 
In an April 2013 issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Deisseroth described his lab’s technique for turning a brain transparent. The process, which he named CLARITY, uses a detergent to strip away lipids that normally block the passage of light, allowing researchers to view large networks of neurons with unprecedented ease and resolution.
 
At 11 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 8, Dr. Deisseroth will deliver the Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture. His talk is titled “Optical and chemical tools for high-resolution investigation of intact biological systems.”
 
His honors and awards include a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award in 2005 for optogenetics; a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; election to the Institute of Medicine in 2010, the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, and the German National Academy of Sciences in 2014; a Pasarow Foundation Award for neuropsychiatry; the Zuelch Prize; the Perl Prize; the BRAIN prize; the Koetser Prize; the Nakasone Award; the Alden Spencer Prize; the Keio Prize; the Lurie Prize; the Albany Prize; the Richard Lounsbery Award from the National Academy of Sciences; and others.
 
In addition to Dr. Deisseroth, other renowned researchers will deliver plenary lectures at Science 2015. The Mellon Lecture will be given by Pamela J. Björkman, Ph.D., of the California Institute of Technology; the Hofmann Lecture will be given by Andrew Feinberg, M.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins University; and the Provost Lecture will be given by James J. Collins, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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