Cambridge University: Neuroscientist Christine Holt wins 'Brain Prize'

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Professor Christine HoltImage source, Cambridge University
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Prof Christine Holt said winning the Brain Prize 2023 was "beyond my wildest dreams"

A scientist from the University of Cambridge has jointly won a top neuroscience award.

Professor Christine Holt will share the 1.3m Euro (£1.1m) Brain Prize 2023 with a German scientist and another from the USA.

Denmark-based Lundbeck Foundation gives the award to researchers who have made "highly original and influential" discoveries in brain research.

Prof Holt said receiving the Brain Prize was "beyond my wildest dreams".

She shares the award with Prof Erin Schuman at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, and Prof Michael Greenberg at Harvard Medical School.

The prize was awarded for their work about critical insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain development and plasticity.

During development and adulthood, human brains are subject to extensive change, known as neural plasticity.

Collectively, the scientists made significant advances in unveiling the mechanisms that enable the brain to develop and to restructure itself in response to external stimuli as it adapts, learns, and recovers from injury.

Ms Holt, professor of developmental neuroscience in the department of physiology, development and neuroscience at Cambridge University, said: "Our work has revealed the surprisingly fast and precise mechanism by which brains 'wire up' during development and actively maintain their wiring throughout life.

"This provides key insights into the causes of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.

"Fundamental knowledge of this sort is essential for developing clinical therapies in nerve repair."


Where brain wiring connections fail to form, or develop incorrectly, there can be serious neurological deficits such as blindness.

If connections fail to be maintained, as occurs in many neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, then important brain function may be lost.

Prof Holt's work revealed each neuron sends out a long "wire" - called an axon - that navigates to its own target in the brain.

She also found that proteins are continuously made in the axons every day which is a process enabling developing, and adult, brains to be shaped by experience.

Laboratories around the world are looking at how mutations in these proteins affect the growth and survival of axons.

It is hoped new therapies can be developed for treating neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.

Prof Holt added: "Receiving the Brain Prize is an honour beyond my wildest dreams, and I'm absolutely delighted.

"It's an incredible recognition of the work that we have been doing over the last 40 years."

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