Laura Lewis Receives Gruber International Research Award

Laura Lewis

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has named Laura Lewis, PhD, a recipient of the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award. Supported by The Gruber Foundation, the award recognizes young neuroscientists for outstanding research and educational pursuit in an international setting and includes $25,000 for each recipient. The award was presented yesterday at Neuroscience 2017, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Lewis, a dual citizen of Canada and Germany, earned her doctorate in neuroscience from MIT. She is now an investigator at the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. Her research aims to understand neural circuits that regulate arousal and to identify how these circuits influence information processing across large-scale brain networks that modulate cognition and behavior.

Working to show how anesthetic drugs act in the brain to produce states of decreased arousal, she spearheaded an interdisciplinary study that revealed that anesthesia induces loss of consciousness not by decreasing brain activity but rather by shifting patterns of activity such that communication networks within the brain are disrupted and brain regions isolated. As a follow-up to this finding, she studied the state of brain inactivation present during general anesthesia, coma, and extreme hypothermia, discovering that this state is characterized by a spatially localized pattern of brain activity. She further demonstrated in mice a brain circuit that can control slow wave states and can cause one part of the brain to be in a sleep-like state while another is in a wake-like one, a discovery that may have important implications for operation and coma recovery protocols.

Additionally, Lewis developed a new approach to neuroimaging that will enable localization of slow oscillations in brain waves that occur during sleep. She has received multiple travel, research, and merit awards for her work.