„David Willshaw has been a pioneer in applying the methods of Computational Neuroscience to help increase our understanding of the development and functioning of the nervous system,“ explains Ad Aertsen, chair of the jury. Willshaw makes use of mathematical analyses and computer simulations in his investigations. One of his main research foci is the visual system. He examines how nerve fibers find their way from the retina to the brain in order to reproduce a mental image of the environment there. In this process, neighboring retinal cells connect to neighboring targets in the brain. “The question was how do nerve fibers find their correct targets?” Willshaw explains. “We suggested that they use a mechanism that converts into an algorithm for combinatorial optimization problems such as the Travelling Salesman Problem that are studied by computer scientists.” In further research projects, Willshaw has studied the mechanisms for innervation in muscles and the functioning of the basal ganglia and their role in Parkinson’s disease. Already during his PhD, he has examied the mechanisms of associative memory.
The Bernstein Association recognizes Willshaw’s achievements in the field of Computational Neuroscience with the presentation of the Valentino Braitenberg Award. The award will be conferred during the Bernstein Conference in the main lecture hall of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin) on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 at 15:00 h. The awardee will receive a € 5000 prize donated by the Autonome Provinz Bozen Südtirol, as well as a Golden Neuron pin badge. During the subsequent Valentino Braitenberg Lecture, David Willshaw will showcase highlights of his research. Media representatives are welcome to attend the prize ceremony and the Valentino Braitenberg Lecture.
About the awardee:
David Willshaw received his PhD with Christopher Longuet-Higgins at the University of Edinburgh in 1971. For his postdoctoral research, he first remained at his alma mater before he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen in 1973. In 1977 he joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) as a training fellow at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London. In 1984, he returned to the University of Edinburgh as an MRC funded independent research group leader, where he was appointed full professor in 1996. Between 1998 and 2004, Willshaw headed the Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation. In 2006, he was awarded a personal chair in computational neurobiology at the University of Edinburgh. Here he continues his studies since his retirement in 2014. David Willshaw was elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was awarded the IEEE Neural Networks Council Pioneer Medal in 1992.
About the award:
The Valentino Braitenberg Award for Computational Neuroscience is named after Valentino Braitenberg (1926-2011), eminent neuroscientist in Tübingen. It is presented biannually by the Bernstein Association to a scientist in recognition of outstanding research that contributes to our understanding of brain functions. In the spirit of Valentino Braitenberg’s research, special emphasis is given to theoretical studies. Valentino Braitenberg was a pioneer of the modern research field of Computational Neuroscience and has significantly contributed to the development of the field of biological cybernetics. His research has also inspired robotics and artificial intelligence.
The non-profit Bernstein Association was launched by members of the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience in Germany in 2009. The network was founded in 2004 as a funding initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in order to support the research discipline of Computational Neuroscience. To date, the BMBF has funded the Bernstein Network with more than 180 million euros. The Bernstein Conference is the annual meeting of the Bernstein Network. Attracting more than 500 scientists, it is the largest annual conference in the field of Computational Neuroscience in Europe. The Bernstein network is named after the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1835-1917).
Prof. Dr. David Willshaw
Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation
School of Informatics
The University of Edinburgh
10 Crichton Street
Edinburgh EH8 9AB
Dr. Mareike Kardinal
Bernstein Coordination Site (BCOS)
Branch Office of the Forschungszentrum Jülich
at the University of Freiburg
Tel: +49 (0)761 203 96787