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McKnight Awards $1.2M for Study of Brain Disorders

Minneapolis, November 23, 2015

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience has selected four projects to receive the 2016 Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award. The awards will total $1.2 million over three years for research on the biology of brain diseases, with each project receiving $300,000 between 2016 and 2018.

The Memory and Cognitive Disorders Awards support innovative research by U.S. scientists who are studying neurological and psychiatric diseases, especially those related to memory and cognition. The awards encourage collaboration between basic and clinical neuroscience to translate laboratory discoveries about the brain and nervous system into diagnoses and therapies to improve human health.

The awards will support studies of genes and areas of the brain involved in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. 

“It’s such a pleasure to be able to chair a committee like this where the awards are both broad and practical,” said Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., chair of the awards committee and professor at New York University Center for Neural Science. “Through the awards we’re able to fund exciting work that seeks to improve human memory function in the normal and diseased state.”

The awards are inspired by the interests of William L. McKnight, who founded The McKnight Foundation in 1953 and wanted to support research on diseases affecting memory. His daughter, Virginia McKnight Binger, and The McKnight Foundation board established the McKnight neuroscience program in his honor in 1977. 

Up to four awards are given each year. This year’s awardees are:

  • David J. Foster, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    The dual role of hippocampal place-cell sequences in learning and memory
  • Ueli Rutishauser, Ph.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center/California Institute of Technology, and Adam Mamelak, M.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
    Hippocampal theta rhythm-mediated coordination of neural activity in human memory
  • Daphna Shohamy, Ph.D., Columbia University
    How episodic memory guides decisions: neural mechanisms and implications for memory loss
  • Kimberley Tolias, Ph.D., and Andreas Tolias, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
    Studying global memory traces at single synapse resolution
View project descriptions

With 120 letters of intent received this year, the awards are highly competitive. A committee of distinguished scientists reviews the letters and invites a select few researchers to submit full proposals. In addition to Suzuki, the committee includes Robert Edwards, M.D., University of California, San Francisco; Howard Eichenbaum, Ph.D., Boston University; Robert Malenka, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University; Ming Guo, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles; Richard O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University; Steven E. Petersen, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis; and Matthew Shapiro, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Letters of intent for the 2017 awards are due by March 1, 2016. Information will be available in early January.



The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent organization funded solely by The McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and led by a board of prominent neuroscientists from around the country. The McKnight Foundation has supported neuroscience research since 1977. The foundation established the Endowment Fund in 1986 to carry out one of the intentions of founder William L. McKnight (1887–1978). One of the early leaders of the 3M Company, he had a personal interest in memory loss and its related diseases.

The Endowment Fund makes three types of awards each year. In addition to the Memory and Cognitive Disorders Awards, they are the McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards, providing seed money to develop technical inventions to advance brain research; and the McKnight Scholar Awards, supporting neuroscientists in the early stages of their research careers. 


Elieen Bloodgood Maler, program manager, 612-333-4220