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Brian Sweis – Class of 2004

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will award the Donald B. Lindsley Prize to Brian Sweis, PhD, graduating class of 2004 at St. Germaine Catholic School in Oak Lawn, IL.  Supported by the Grass Foundation, the prize recognizes an outstanding PhD thesis in the area of general behavioral neuroscience. The $2,500 award was established in 1979 in honor of Donald B. Lindsley, an early trustee of the Grass Foundation. The award will be presented at Neuroscience 2019, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

“The Society recognizes the innovative work in Dr. Sweis’s thesis that advances our understanding of how the brain processes information during decision making and how these processes are affected by addiction,” said Diane Lipscombe, SfN President. “His work has significant implications for developing interventions for those affected by addiction and other mental illness.

In his thesis work at the University of Minnesota, Sweis took a cross-species neuroeconomics approach to understand how mice, rats, and humans make complex decisions. He discovered that there is a conserved evolutionary history to cognitive biases previously thought to be unique to humans, and that these biases arose from similar neural systems in all three species. Applying this framework to the study of addiction, Sweis found that mice exposed to different drugs of abuse suffered lasting impairments in fundamentally distinct types of choices. He then combined electrophysiology with optogenetics in mice and, with a novel method to measure individual differences in synaptic strength, linked circuit-specific memories to dysfunctions in certain neuroeconomic computations. Together, his work emphasized the translational importance of moving beyond simple tests of value in behavioral paradigms in order to better resolve underlying neural processes.

In parallel with his ongoing MD training, Sweis is now conducting clinical research to translate his thesis work from rodents and healthy humans into psychiatric patient populations, including those suffering from addiction, depression, and anorexia nervosa. He is taking a neuroeconomics approach in conjunction with advanced neuroimaging and neuromodulation technology in order to identify computation-based behavioral and neurobiological markers of decision-making dysfunctions that could one day serve as individualized targets for therapeutic intervention.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.

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