Mu-Ming Poo, Ph.D., a world-renowned researcher whose innovative research has shed light on some of the most puzzling mysteries in cellular neuroscience, will receive the $500,000 prize for his seminal discoveries regarding the molecular and cell mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity in the brain. Poo is the Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and the director of the Institute of Neuroscience at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai.
Over the course of his long career, Poo has taken a broad and inventive approach to research. In addition to his discoveries with respect to synaptic plasticity, he has made major contributions in several other areas, including neuronal polarization, the maturation of the neuromuscular junction, the molecular and cell mechanisms underlying axon guidance, and the neurotrophic regulation of synaptic functions. He also has opened research avenues that have shaped entire fields, including the use of nerve-muscle cultures to study synaptic plasticity in vitro, the discovery that the level of cyclic nucleotides can reverse the polarity of nerve pathfinding decisions, and the fact that synaptic plasticity often affects remote synapses.
"Through his innovative and ingenious experiments, Mu-Ming Poo has greatly advanced knowledge of mechanisms of brain plasticity — the ability to form new connections or change the strength of existing ones driven by our experiences of the world- in nerve cells," said Carla Shatz, director of Bio-X at Stanford University "He has enhanced our understanding of how synapses, the special junctions between nerve cells so crucial for all brain functions, are reinforced or weakened by neural activity."