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Prof Randy Bruno Receives Wellcome Discovery Award

19 July 2022

Professor Randy Bruno

Congratulations to Professor Randy M Bruno, St Peter’s College Tutor in Neuroscience and Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, who has been awarded a Wellcome Discovery Award.

The Wellcome Trust is a prestigious funding organisation whose mission is to improve health for everyone by funding research, leading policy and advocacy campaigns and building global partnerships. The Wellcome Discovery Award scheme is given to established researchers and teams from any discipline who want to pursue bold and creative research ideas to deliver significant shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing.

Prof Bruno will use his award to investigate the mediator of cognition, the neocortex, the largest part of the cerebral cortex responsible for a diverse set of abilities including sensation, perception, decision making, planning, and movement. Dysfunctions of neocortex are thought to underlie numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders. All neocortical areas share a common laminar architecture, with stereotyped patterns of connectivity linking any given layer with another layer, or with other nervous system structures. The computational and behavioural roles of the different layers have largely remained enigmatic.

‘My Discovery Award has two goals,’ he said. ‘The first is to understand how the cortical layers flexibly support multiple complex behaviours while allowing us to generalise to situations we’ve never seen before. The second goal is to understand the cellular and circuit mechanisms by which learning rewires the cortical layers in task-specific ways. Our study will contribute to new frameworks for understanding how all neocortical areas enable behaviour and how various disorders disrupt cognitive processing.

‘Wellcome recognises the value of a scientific funding model that provides a high level of support and flexibility for an entire lab, rather than funding one small specific project. Only with that degree of investment can a laboratory pivot quickly to attempt something new that might be incredibly important to its overall goals. The support of a Discovery Award, along with its long-time horizon, can unleash unexpected creativity and discovery. I’m deeply honoured that Wellcome and its scientific advisors believe so strongly in our greater mission to give my lab and me the chance to make those kinds of contributions.’

A version of this story first appeared here on the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics website.

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