Dr. Jon Kass receives Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience
Dr. Jon Kass, Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience, received the 2021 Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience, the highest recognition conferred by the Society for Neuroscience.
The Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience honors outstanding scientists who have made significant contributions to neuroscience throughout his or her careers. The prize is named for the revered neuroscientist Dr. Ralph W. Gerard who helped establish the Society for Neuroscience and served as its honorary president.
Dr. Jon Kaas, a distinguished centennial professor at Vanderbilt University, has had a groundbreaking career revealing the structure and function of the cerebral cortex, as well as the plasticity of the adult brain. Through decades of detailed research, Kaas mapped the cortex in nearly thirty mammalian species, from chimpanzees to hedgehogs, providing a clearer understanding of the evolution of the human brain and its capabilities. By integrating fine-grained electrophysical mapping with detailed anatomical reconstructions, his work has revealed the functional and structural organization of sensory systems, including the visual system and somatosensory system, across multiple species. Kaas also helped demonstrate that the adult brain is capable of functional reorganization following injury or motor training, helping to overturn the doctrine that plasticity was limited to early life. This work has led to more effective approaches to rehabilitation after brain damage following stroke, macular degeneration, or motor system disorders and injuries. The atlases Kaas has helped establish — identifying component structures, the inputs and outputs to those structures, and their functional topography — have laid the foundation for all studies of function, while his work showing that these maps are continuously revisable via life-long plasticity revolutionized rehabilitation strategies.