Richard Axel is a Nobel laureate, a University Professor, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Columbia University Medical Center and a codirector of Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Dr. Axel obtained an AB from Columbia College and an MD from Johns Hopkins Medical School. In earlier studies, Dr. Axel and his colleagues, Michael Wigler and Saul Silverstein, developed gene transfer techniques that permit the introduction of virtually any gene into any cell. These studies not only allowed for a novel approach to isolate genes but also provided a detailed analysis of how they worked. At the same time, these experiments allowed for the production of an increasingly large number of clinically important proteins. These studies also led to the isolation and functional analysis of a gene for the lymphocyte surface protein, CD4, the cellular receptor for the AIDS virus, HIV.
Dr. Axel then began to apply molecular biology to problems in neuroscience with the expectation that genetics could interface with neuroscience to approach the tenuous relationship between genes, behavior and perception. His studies on the logic of the sense of smell revealed over a thousand genes involved in the recognition of odors and provided insight into how genes shape our perception of the sensory environment; this research earned him the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Axel’s current work centers on how the recognition of odors is translated into an internal representation of sensory quality in the brain and how this representation leads to meaningful thoughts and behavior.
Eric R. Kandel is a Nobel laureate; University Professor at Columbia University; Kavli Professor and director, Kavli Institute for Brain Science; codirector, Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute; and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU School of Medicine, Dr. Kandel trained in neurobiology at the NIH and in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He joined the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1974 as the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior. At Columbia Dr. Kandel organized the neuroscience curriculum. He is an editor of Principles of Neural Science, the standard textbook in the field, now in its fifth edition. In 2006, Dr. Kandel wrote a book on the brain for the general public entitled In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, which won both the L.A. Times and U.S. National Academy of Science Awards for best book in Science and Technology in 2008. A documentary film based on that book is also entitled In Search of Memory. In 2012 Dr. Kandel wrote The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present, which won the Kreisky Award in Literature, Austria’s highest literary award. Dr. Kandel’s newest book, entitled Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures, published by Columbia University Press, was released in Fall 2016.
Dr. Kandel’s research has been concerned with the molecular mechanisms of memory storage in Aplysia and mice. More recently, he has studied animal models in mice; age-related memory disorders; post-traumatic stress disorders; and nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine addiction. Dr. Kandel has received twenty-three honorary degrees and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences as well as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London and a member of the National Science Academies of Austria, France, Germany and Greece. He has been recognized with the Albert Lasker Award, the Heineken Award of the Netherlands, the Gairdner Award of Canada, the Harvey Prize and the Wolf Prize of Israel, the National Medal of Science USA and the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2000.
Rui Costa is the associate director and chief executive officer of Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and a professor of neuroscience and neurology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Dr. Costa works closely with the Zuckerman Institute’s codirectors, Nobel laureates Eric Kandel and Richard Axel, and is responsible for the administrative, financial and scientific management of the Institute. Professor Costa has substantial experience in institutional leadership for neuroscience research. Prior to joining Columbia in 2016, he was Director of Research at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal.
Dr. Costa is an expert in movement and behavior in health and in disease. To gain insight into these brain processes, he has developed powerful new approaches and methodologies that harness genetics, cutting-edge imaging technology and brain-machine interfaces. Using these tools, his laboratory recently identified the mechanism by which the brain initiates a movement, such as taking a first step. Because problems with movement initiation are a hallmark sign of Parkinson’s disease, deciphering how this process goes awry in Parkinson’s are be critical for developing more effective treatments. Dr. Costa’s research has also shed light on how the brain combines distinct movements into a seamless sequence, called ‘action chunking.’ These investigations have led to a deeper understanding of how the brain learns to repeat movements that elicit a feeling of pleasure, while also providing insight into psychiatric disorders characterized by compulsive or repetitive movements and actions, such as autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Dr. Costa was an International Early Career Scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2012-2017. In 2017, he was awarded the Ariëns Kappers Award from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for his contributions to the field of neuroscience. In 2014, Dr. Costa was knighted Commander of the Order of Sant'Iago da Espada by the President of Portugal. In 2014, he also received the Young Investigator Award from the Fondation Louis-Jeantet and in 2012 from the Society for Neuroscience.
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