The one-million euro Brain Prize, given by the Lundbeck Foundation in Denmark for outstanding research in neuroscience was awarded to Peter Dayan, Ray Dolan and Wolfram Schultz, on Monday. "I can hear my neurons jumping up and down," the neuroscientists said on receiving the award, given annually.
Their pioneering research on dopamine neurons has led to pathbreaking findings. Dopamine neurons are at the heart of the brain's reward system, affecting behaviour in everything from decision-making, risk-taking and gambling, to drug addiction and schizophrenia.
Dopamine neurons are like the little devils in our brain that drive us towards more rewards. Their research shows how our future behaviour is dictated by constant brain feedback on anticipated rewards. That is, if the rewards are as expected, or better or worse than expected.
While Schultz, a German-born professor of neuroscience works at the University of Cambridge, Dayan is the Director of the Gatsby computational neuroscience unit at the University College, London. Dolan is the director of the new Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing.