Britain-based researchers win major Danish science prize

Work on understanding addiction leads to award

Three Britain-based brain researchers have been awarded the Brain Prize, a one million euro (7,433,054 kroner) award established by the Lundbeck Foundation.

The recipients – Peter Dayan, Ray Dolan and Wolfram Schultz – were given the award based on their work on explaining how learning is associated with the reward system of the brain.

They have identified how learning is linked with the anticipation of being rewarded, thus revealing the mechanisms in the brain that can lead to compulsive gambling, drug addiction and alcoholism.

Colin Blakemore, the chairman of the foundation’s selection committee, said the research offers far-reaching perspectives on the understanding of human behaviour.

“Their research has provided a valuable key to understanding what goes wrong when people succumb to compulsive gambling, drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia,” Blakemore said.

Rewarding research
The researchers used animal testing, mathematical modelling and human trials to show that the release of dopamine is not a response to the actual reward, but to the difference between the reward expected and the reward received. The knowledge could lead to improvements in the treatment of addiction.

The Lundbeck Foundation established the Brain Prize in 2010, and it was awarded for the first time in 2011. This year’s prize will be presented on May 4 in Copenhagen.