Montreal researchers awarded for pioneering research into music and brain plasticity


The 22nd annual Neuronal Plasticity Prize of the Fondation Ipsen has been awarded to Robert J. Zatorre (Montreal Neurological Institute, BRAMS Laboratory), Isabelle Peretz (University of Montreal, BRAMS Laboratory)  and Helen J. Neville (University of Oregon, Eugene, USA), for their pioneering research in the domain of “Music and Brain Plasticity”. The €60,000 prize was awarded on July 15, 2011 by an international jury led by Professor Nikos Logothetis (Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tubingen, Germany) at the 8th International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) World Congress of Neuroscience in Florence, Italy.

About the laureates

Robert J. Zatorre is a James McGill professor of neuroscience at The Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University. Dr. Zatorre’s research explore the functional and structural organization of the human brain using neuroimaging and behavioral methods. His principal research interests relate to the neural substrate for auditory cognition, with special emphasis on two complex and characteristically human abilities: speech and music. He and his collaborators have published over 200 scientific papers on a variety of topics including pitch perception, musical imagery, absolute pitch, music and emotion, perception of auditory space, and brain plasticity in the blind and the deaf. In 2006 he co-founded the international laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound research (BRAMS), a unique multi-university consortium dedicated to the cognitive neuroscience of music and auditory cognition.

Isabelle Peretz, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and the holder of a Canada Research Chair in neurocognition of music. In 2005, she became the founding co-director of the international laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound research (BRAMS). Dr. Peretz is also the founding Editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, the recipient of several awards, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Psychological Association. She is renowned for her work on congenital and acquired musical disorders (amusia) and for pioneering the study of the biological foundations of music in general. Her research focuses on the musical potential of ordinary people, its neural correlates, its heritability and its specificity relative to language. She has published over 150 scientific papers on a variety of topics, ranging from perception, memory, and emotions to singing and now, dancing.

Helen J. Neville is currently The Robert and Beverly Lewis Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Director of the Brain Development Lab, and Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Her work experience includes Director of the Laboratory for Neuropsychology at the Salk Institute. She has published in many journals such as Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Cerebral Cortex and Brain Research and has made a DVD about the brain for non-scientists. She has received many honors like being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Board of Governors of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the Academic Panel of Birth to Three and is active in many educational outreach programs. She is known for her research on the role of biological constraints and experience (including music) in brain development including the study of the plasticity of auditory system.

About the Neuronal Plasticity Prize

Founded in 1990, the Neuronal Plasticity Prize of the Fondation Ipsen has been awarded to renowned specialists around the globe. Previous winners from Montreal include Albert Aguayo (1990), Brenda Milner (1995) and Serge Rossignol (2003). For a complete list of laureates visit:

About Fondation Ipsen:

About the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital:

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro, is a unique academic medical centre dedicated to neuroscience. The Neuro is a research and teaching institute of McGill University and forms the basis for the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro is recognized internationally for integrating research, compassionate patient care and advanced training, all key to advances in science and medicine. Neuro researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. The Montreal Neurological Institute was named as one of the Seven Centres of Excellence in Budget 2007, which provided the MNI with $15 million in funding to support its research and commercialization activities related to neurological disease and neuroscience.