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Salk scientist Terrence Sejnowski elected to National Academy of Sciences

La Jolla, CA - Salk Institute professor Terrence J. Sejnowski, Ph.D., whose work on neural networks helped spark the neural networks revolution in computing in the 1980s, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy made the announcement today during its 147th annual meeting in Washington, DC. Election to the Academy recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research, and is considered one of the highest honors accorded a U.S. scientist.

"Terry is an extraordinary neuroscientist," said Salk President William R. Brody. "His work has bridged computer science and neuroscience and has helped spur many advances in neuroscience. His election is a wonderful recognition of his pioneering accomplishments in computational neuroscience."

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Dr. Sejnowski tries to understand the computational resources of brains, and to build linking principles from brain to behavior using computational models. He pursues his goal by combining both experimental and modeling techniques to study the biophysical properties of synapses- the connections between brain cells- and the population dynamics of large networks of neurons. For example, he demonstrated that the release of chemical signals from nerves isn't restricted to synapses, as neuroscientists had previously believed, but is mostly released outside the expected region.

He has created computer models of networks of neurons to explore the mechanisms underlying attention in the awake brain and brain rhythms in the sleeping brain and the links between them. These models also help explain how epilepsy arises from imbalances in brain circuits.

By studying how computer simulations can perform operations that resemble the activities of the cerebral cortex, Dr. Sejnowski hopes to gain new knowledge of how the human brain is capable of learning and storing memories. This knowledge ultimately may provide medical specialists with critical clues to combating Alzheimer's disease and other disorders that rob people of the critical ability to remember faces, names, places and events.

As of today, 16 of the Salk Institute's 60 faculty (about 27%) are members of the National Academy of Sciences.


Contact: Gina Kirchweger
Salk Institute

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Salk scientist Terrence Sejnowski elected to National Academy of Sciences
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