Milner Awarded Kavli Prize in Neuroscience

APS William James Fellow Brenda Milner has received the 2014 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience. Milner is a neuropsychologist at McGill University, Canada, known for her work with the patient H.M., who experienced impaired memory after most of his medial temporal lobes were removed to control his severe epilepsy.

After the surgery, it appeared that H.M. was not able to retain newly created memories even though he continued to remember his life prior to the operation. But Milner discovered that, despite his damaged memory, H.M. was able to acquire some new skills. For example, H.M. became proficient in a mirror drawing task that involved drawing a five-pointed star. Most people have trouble with mirror drawing tasks because of the confusing visual cues caused by the mirror; H.M. was able to master the mirror task over three days despite having no memory of earlier practice sessions. Milner’s work with H.M. made significant contributions to the science of memory by clearly illustrating the distinction between declarative and procedural memory.

Milner shares the $1 million Kavli Prize with John O’Keefe of University College London, UK, and Marcus E. Raichle of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. The Kavli Foundation is recognizing the three scientist together “for the discovery of specialized brain networks for memory and cognition. The Kavli Foundation recognizes scientists each year for “seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.”

At the 2013 APS Annual Convention, Brenda Milner spoke about her career with Carol Tavris as part of APS’s “Inside the Psychologist’s Studio” interview series. They discussed Milner’s educational background, her collaboration with colleagues such as Wilder Penfield, and her experience working with H.M.

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