Lisa Giocomo and Christopher Harvey receive Young Investigator Award

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lisa Giocomo, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Christopher Harvey, PhD, assistant professor in the Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology, have been selected to receive this year's Young Investigator Award.

Supported by Sunovion, a pharmaceutical company, the $15,000 award recognizes outstanding achievements and contributions made by young neuroscientists who have demonstrated scholarly independence. The award will be presented in San Diego at Neuroscience 2018, SfN's annual meeting and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

"Dr. Giocomo has contributed novel insight into spatial perception, and Dr. Harvey has made strides in our understanding of the synaptic specificity of neural plasticity," SfN President Richard Huganir said. "The implications of their work have the potential to bridge molecular processes with cognitive function and to provide new applications of tools and techniques in a frontier area of systems neuroscience."

In her postdoctoral work at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Giocomo focused on the role that grid cells of the entorhinal cortex play individually and as a part of a circuit as they create a spatial map of the environment. Using interdisciplinary methodologies, including whole-cell patch and in vivo unit recording, and genetically altered animal models, she discovered that a grid cell's location along the entorhinal cortex determines that cell's role in spatial perception.

Moreover, as an independent researcher at Stanford University, Giocomo has helped to elucidate how spatial perception is formed at a cellular level. This work involves looking at border cells, which activate near environmental boundaries; place cells, which activate spatial locations; and velocity signals.

Harvey's work has advanced our knowledge of neural circuitry for navigation and decision-making. As a graduate student at the Watson School of Biological Sciences at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, he used two-photon microscopy and fluorescent reporters to show that signaling molecules can be shared between neighboring syn-apses, revealing new rules for synaptic plasticity. As a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, Harvey devel-oped virtual reality systems in which mice can navigate in virtual mazes while neural activity is probed with optical and electrophysiological methods. He identified new properties of coding in hippocampal place cells and showed that cortical populations of neurons are sequentially activated during decision tasks.

In his lab at Harvard Medical School, Harvey has developed approaches to understand emergent properties of populations of neurons in the context of decision-making. With optical and computational approaches, his work has identified how activity in neural populations changes over timescales ranging from seconds to weeks, provid-ing evidence for new structure in the dynamics of neural circuits.

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The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.

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