HMS Neurobiologist Wins Major Neuroscience Award

Michael Greenberg shares The Brain Prize with two neuroscientists for critical insights into brain plasticity

A photo of Greenberg sitting in his lab and leaning on a lab bench, surrounded by lab supplies
Harvard Medical School neurobiologist Michael Greenberg won The Brain Prize 2023 for his four decades of research on gene expression and brain plasticity. Image: Courtesy of Anna Olivella and the Harvard Brain Science Initiative

At a glance:

  • Harvard Medical School neurobiologist Michael Greenberg has won the 2023 Brain Prize for pivotal insights into brain plasticity
  • Greenberg shares the award with two other neuroscientists.
  • Greenberg’s research has revealed how experiences and exposures modulate the activity of genes that regulate brain plasticity.
  • Greenberg’s work has illuminated the mechanisms by which certain genes control the maturation, pruning, and stability of connections in the brain.

Harvard Medical School neurobiologist Michael Greenberg has won The Brain Prize 2023 for his lifelong research into brain plasticity: the ability of the organ to change, adapt, and learn over time.

Greenberg, who is the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, shares the award with Christine Holt, professor of developmental neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, and with Erin Schuman, director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research.

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Collectively, the three scientists have made significant advances in unveiling the cellular and molecular mechanisms that enable the brain to restructure itself in response to external stimuli as it adapts, learns, and even recovers from injury.

The Brain Prize, considered the world’s most significant prize for brain research, includes approximately €1.3 million to be shared by the three recipients. The prize is awarded annually by the Danish Lundbeck Foundation to researchers who have made highly original and influential discoveries in brain research.

Greenberg’s research focuses on understanding how the brain responds to signals from the outside world to modulate the activity of genes that make proteins essential for brain plasticity. Throughout his career, Greenberg has delved into the details of this process, elucidating the identities, roles, and relationships of the various genes, proteins, and molecules involved.

“That our sensory experiences shape the structure and function of the brain is one of the profound discoveries in the field of neuroscience in the 20th century,” said David Ginty, chair of neurobiology at HMS. “Mike’s work, which has extended into the 21st century, has explained how this fundamental feature of brain function is achieved at a molecular, cellular, and circuit level.”

Brain plasticity, or the brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to new information throughout life, is a hallmark of the brain; central to the organ’s ability to function over many decades and to recover or regain function after damage.