APS Past President James L. McGaugh, a world-renown trailblazer in the study of learning and memory, has been honored by University of California-Irvine, the institution where he has spent virtually his entire career, with the dedication of a building in his name.
A National Academy of Science member, McGaugh is the founding director of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, one of the world’s leading research institutes dedicated exclusively to the study of learning and memory. As an original faculty member, McGaugh’s influence is also evident at UCI’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, which he founded in 1964. The department is the first of its kind and a leading contributor in neuroscience research, especially in the areas of learning and memory, brain development and age-related changes in the brain.
For more than 40 years, McGaugh has been a preeminent figure in learning and memory research. Beginning with his findings in the late 1950s that stimulant drugs enhance memories when administered immediately after learning, he has remained a leading researcher investigating how drugs, stress and hormones influence the brain to regulate the formation of long-term memories. In the subsequent decades, his outstanding contributions to understanding learning and memory and his innovative department influenced the development of hundreds of similar departments worldwide.
In addition to serving as APS president from 1989-1992 and being a Fellow of APS, McGaugh’s honors include membership in the Brazilian and Mexican Academies of Science, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Other honors include the McGovern Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“It is a great honor to be recognized by my university, UC-Irvine, for my contributions over almost four decades,” said McGaugh. “As a founding faculty member, I am very pleased to have my name on a building located near other buildings named after several other pioneering faculty, including that of the dean who recruited me to UCI. It is an honor that I did not expect but am delighted to have.”
“I check daily to make sure that my name is still on the building!” he added. McGaugh built the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory in 1983, both scientifically and in a more literal sense, raising $6 million in private funds to build and equip the research facility. Twenty-three faculty researchers from five academic departments at UCI and five other California universities and institutes are center fellows, making it one of the largest research centers in the world that investigate learning and memory.