Winners Brain Awards 2021 announced

On December 10, the annual Brain Award Ceremony took place online. This year, two Brain Awards, in the categories Scientific Excellence and Collaborative Excellence, were awarded to postdocs from the institute to celebrate their achievements. In addition to the awards, there were also two honorable mentions for the runner ups in the category Scientific Excellence.


Postdoc researcher Xing Chen, from the Roelfsema group was awarded the Brain Award for Scientific Excellence for her publication ‘Shape perception via a high-channel-count neuroprosthesis in monkey visual cortex’ in the scientific journal Science.

The jury wrote that “the impact of this work is wide-ranging, both from a technological perspective given the collaboration with an established commercial developer of electrophysiological equipment, but more importantly from the perspective of providing the first proof-of-concept of restoring sight artificially. The paper lays the foundation of future prosthetic devices that can be applied in the visually impaired”.

The Silver Award for Scientific Excellence goes to Mehran Ahmadlou, from the Heimel group for his paper ‘A cell type–specific cortico-subcortical brain circuit for investigatory and novelty-seeking behavior’ in Science.

According to the jury the paper is “outstanding, describing a novel cortico-subcortical circuit involved in novelty seeking. The authors develop new analytical tools to distinguish deep from shallow object investigation and apply a battery of cell-specific optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations to investigate specific circuit components contributing to these behaviors”.

The Bronze Award for Scientific Excellence has been awarded to Paloma Maldonado from the Lohmann lab, for her paper ‘Oxytocin Shapes Spontaneous Activity Patterns in the Developing Visual Cortex by Activating Somatostatin Interneurons’ in Current Biology.

“This is an interesting study that provides new insights in the role of the neuromodulator oxytocin in regulating spontaneous activity patterns during early brain development in mice. The effects of oxytocin on spontaneous activity were unknown before,” the jury said.


The Brain Award for Collaborative Excellence 2021 has been awarded to Joris Vangeneugden for the paper ‘Activity in Lateral Visual Areas Contributes to Surround Suppression in Awake Mouse V1′ in Current Biology. This was a collaborative study between the Levelt, Roelfsema and Heimel groups.

The jury wrote that “the work presented here is an excellent example of the achievements collaborative research can accomplish. In particular the avenues it opens up for future collaborations among the groups looks very exciting. Joris Vangeneugden should be congratulated for leading this work and managing the integration of inputs from multiple labs to be synthesized into an important and coherent scientific contribution”.


Since 2015, the institute has been awarding the Brain Awards annually. The award is for PhD students or postdocs who excel in their research. The idea behind our NIN Brain Awards, is to put the limelight on our scientists, and to reward their hard work. Prizes can be won in three categories: ‘collaborative excellence’, ‘scientific excellence’ and ‘methodological excellence’. All winners receive a statue and a cash prize.