Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience Recognizes Outstanding Contributions of UA’s Carol A. Barnes

By Lisa Romero, BIO5 Institute | October 31, 2013

Barnes will receive the Society for Neuroscience’s highest honor for her contributions to the field.

Carol Barnes

Carol Barnes

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has named Carol A. Barnes of the University of Arizona its Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience recipient. The prize will be awarded on Nov. 10 during Neuroscience 2013, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

The Gerard Prize, which is the highest recognition conferred by SfN, honors an outstanding scientist who has made significant contributions to neuroscience throughout his or her career. It was established in the name of Dr. Ralph W. Gerard, who was instrumental in establishing SfN and served as Honorary President from 1970 until his death in 1974.

“Dr. Barnes is a pioneer in the field of systems neuroscience, and her work has made fundamental contributions to understanding the adaptive nature of the aging brain,” said Larry Swanson, president of SfN. “Additionally, her commitment to teaching undergraduate and graduate students has been instrumental in equipping the next generation of scientists with the skills they will need to succeed in this field.”

Barnes was among the first neuroscientists to investigate how normal aging affects the brain circuitry underlying cognitive processes such as memory. Driven by the philosophy that scientists cannot fully understand age-associated brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease until they understand normal brain aging, Barnes has employed a variety of scientific techniques to uncover the changes that take place in the aging brain. Her work has helped to define neurobiological norms of successful brain aging across mammalian species.

There have been a total of 51 recipients of the prize since 1978. Forty-three of these are National Academies of Science members, 16 are past presidents of the Society for Neuroscience, and nine are Nobel laureates.

“I am extraordinarily proud that one of our esteemed Regents’ Professors, Dr. Carol Barnes, has been awarded this great honor,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. “The Gerard Prize for Neuroscience is only given to the top scientists in this field, and Dr. Barnes is without a doubt worthy to be among this group. She has revolutionized how we think about aging and increasing cognitive health span, and here at the UA is the catalyst for many of our institutional efforts around the national BRAIN initiative through her work in the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and the BIO5 Institute.”

Barnes earned her PhD at Carleton University, and she completed postdoctoral fellowships at Dalhousie University, the University of Olso and University College London. She is currently a Regents’ Professor of psychology, neurology, and neuroscience at the UA, where she is also the director and endowed chair of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, director of the ARL Division of Neural Systems, Memory, and Aging, and associate director of the BIO5 Institute.

“It is an incredible honor to be awarded the Gerard Prize because all the previous recipients are scientific heroines or heroes to me,” said Barnes. “Dr. Ralph Gerard himself pioneered the idea of neuroscience as being a science of many intersecting disciplines, and my past and current collaborators, postdocs, and students have each crossed disciplinary boundaries with me in our quest to uncover the mysteries of the brain. We now know that this is the only way we will revolutionize brain science, and it is the model encouraged in my work with the BIO5 Institute.”

“Additionally, I’m thrilled to be recognized for my work in the field of the neurobiology of cognition and aging brain systems – the focus of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, and long supported by the National Institute on Aging. My focus has been to understand the underlying basis of normal brain function so that we can detect disease, translate research findings into meaningful therapies, and extend cognitive health span.”

The Society for Neuroscience is an organization of nearly 42,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.

The BIO5 Institute at the UA mobilizes top researchers in agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy, and science to find bold solutions to humanity’s most pressing health and environmental challenges. Since 2001, this interdisciplinary approach has been an international model of how to conduct collaborative research, and has resulted in improved food crops, innovative diagnostics and devices, and promising new therapies.

The Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the UA is one of four McKnight Brain Institutes across the U.S. established by the McKnight Brain Research Foundation to promote research and investigation of fundamental brain mechanisms responsible for memory loss during aging. Investigators are working to uncover the neurobiological changes in the brain that cause memory to decline as we age, and to understand what characterizes “normal” from pathological aging, so that methods can be developed to help optimize brain and mental health function throughout life.


Lisa Romero
UA BIO5 Institute,


Kat Snodgrass
Society for Neuroscience

Posted in AZBio News.