Future: Brain Sciences
Dr. Amiram Grinvald of the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department was considered the world leader in functional optical imaging.
He was the first to use the term optical imaging in a paper published in 1984. Technical innovations developed by Grinvald have had a profound impact on neurosciences. Using his method of optical imaging, based on molecular probes called voltage-sensitive dyes, Grinvald was able to visualize electrical activity in the living brain, in real time.
Later in his career, Grinvald developed a second novel optical brain-mapping approach, based on tracking the color changes in the blood by supplying oxygen. Using this new method, Grinvald was able to identify the exact time and place in which nerve cells consume oxygen from the blood-dense micro-circulation system. The high resolution achieved by optical imaging enabled him to fully map individual cortical columns, the brain’s so-called “microprocessors.” These included visual system microprocessors related to shape, color, and motion perception.
Grinvald served as the Director of the Murray H. & Meyer Grodetsky Center for Research of Higher Brain Functions at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was also the Helen and Norman Asher Professorial Chair in Brain Research.
In addition, Grinvald was also named Foreign Director of the Max Planck Institute for Medicine at Heidelberg and guest staff member at the Frontier Research Program at Riken in Japan.
In 2000, Grinvald was awarded the Körber European Science Prize.
Grinvald’s accomplishments have made it possible to answer many unresolved questions in systems-neuroscience and to advance substantially its clinical applications in operating rooms across the world. Optical imaging has enabled neurosurgeons to delineate functional borders prior to excision of brain tumors or epileptic foci. Furthermore, the technique of intrinsic optical imaging has led to a quantum leap in ophthalmic diagnostics offering early diagnoses for older people, which may lead to a treatment for blindness prevention.
The 2004 Dan David Prize honors Dr. Amiram Grinvald in recognition of his innovative methods and his vision of sensory system function, which have significantly changed the way these systems are currently viewed by Neurobiologists.