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Fred Wolf receives the Mathematical Neuroscience Prize 2017

For the first time, a European researcher is awarded the world’s most highly endowed prize for groundbreaking mathematical contributions to the understanding of the brain.

Fred Wolf, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS), head of the Göttingen Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (BCCN) and honorary professor at the University of Göttingen is awarded the Mathematical Neuroscience Prize. Wolf received the $ 100,000 prize for his fundamental work on the mechanisms of vision in the brain. With this award, the prize committee recognizes "Fred Wolf's groundbreaking contributions to theoretical neuroscience, primarily on the organization of the visual cortex and the dynamics of spiking neurons and neuronal circuits." Theo Geisel, scientific member of the Max Planck Society and founding director of the BCCN in Göttingen says: "Awarding this outstanding prize to Fred Wolf emphasizes Göttingen’s leading role in the field of theoretical neuroscience and will help to further stimulate our seminal research in this field." The award ceremony took place on March 7th in Tel Aviv within the framework of the BrainTech 2017 conference.

Understanding the brain needs theoretical concepts

Understanding the brain still remains one of the biggest scientific challenges, one which Fred Wolf has embraced in his research. The brain is one of nature’s most complex structures; Billions of neurons, linked through trillions of connections, process enormous amounts of information within fractions of a second via complex, spatio-temporal patterns of electrical activity. Understanding this complex biological system is not possible without mathematical analyses and theories. Malfunctions in the brain can cause severe physical and mental impairments, especially during aging, which belong to the most frequent medical disorders. The new, highly dynamic research discipline of Computational Neuroscience takes on these challenges. It combines biomedical experiments with theoretical investigations and therefore paves the way for scientific insight and technological applications. In Germany, researchers from this area of research have joined efforts in the nationwide Bernstein Network for Computational Neuroscience. The Bernstein initiative was launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in 2004 to support the research discipline of Computational Neuroscience. Meanwhile, the BMBF has funded the Bernstein network with a total endowment of more than 180 million euros.

About the Award

The Mathematical Neuroscience Prize honors researchers who have significantly advanced our understanding of the neural mechanisms of perception, behavior and thought through the application of mathematical analysis and modeling. Theoretical methods and models are essential for the integration of genetic, molecular, anatomical, and physiological information, which is acquired over a large range of spatial and temporal scales, into a unified concept of brain function. The Mathematical Neuroscience Prize is awarded by Israel Brain Technologies (IBT) every two years to two outstanding scientists. It is accompanied by US $ 100,000, each.

About Fred Wolf

Fred Wolf studied physics and neuroscience at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt. In 1999, he was awarded the first Altdorfer Leibniz Prize as well as the Amos de Shalit Fellowship of the Minerva Foundation and the Schlössman Fellowship of the Max Planck Society for his fundamental work on the theoretical physics of neural systems.

Wolf has worked at leading international centers of theoretical neuroscience and theoretical physics, including the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation, the Racah Institute of Physics, and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2001, he returned to Germany where he established a Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization supported by the Volkswagen Foundation and the Human Frontiers Science Program.

In 2008, he was appointed to honorary professor of Physics at the University of Göttingen. Wolf is a regular participant in the research programs of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, where he led the program on “Emerging Techniques in Neuroscience” as program director in 2010.

He is a founding member of the Bernstein Center of Computational Neuroscience Göttingen and is, since 2013, its managing director.