HAMBURG, Germany—October saw the announcement that U.S.-based scientist Dr. Eiman Azim, a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University in New York, has won the 2014 Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology for his work that offers fundamental new insights into the neural mechanisms that enable skilled limb movements to be both smooth and precise.
“When we catch a ball or throw a dart, we usually don’t give a second thought to the intricate neural circuits that orchestrate such dexterous behaviors. Yet for these actions to succeed, the nervous system must continuously tweak motor output to shape and refine movement of the arm,” noted Azims. “As a postdoctoral fellow with Tom Jessell, I have been using the genetic accessibility of mice to disentangle individual spinal circuits that help achieve the precision and fidelity of reaching movements. By applying mouse molecular tools to the investigation of skilled forelimb behavior, traditionally the domain of primate research, my colleagues and I provide direct experimental support for long-standing theories about how internal feedback pathways within the central nervous system and external feedback from the muscles each contribute to fine motor control.”
In the future, Azim said that he plans to build on the approaches he and his colleagues developed to investigate how the cerebellum uses feedback information to refine movement.
“More generally, I hope to explore how the elaboration of motor circuits across developmental and evolutionary time directs diverse repertoires of skilled motor behavior, with an eye toward a better understanding of human motor function and dysfunction,” he said.
The annual $25,000 Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology honors scientists, like Azim—the 13th recipient of this international award—for their outstanding contributions to neurobiology research. The prize is presented at a ceremony held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
According to Dr. Peter Stern, prize jury chair and science senior editor, “Eiman Azim’s work has furthered our understanding of the neural circuits involved in skilled movement. He established that propriospinal neuron internal feedback and motor copy circuits help to calibrate movement. Dr. Azim identified presynaptic inhibition as a crucial gain control mechanism for smooth limb movement.”
All scientists who are 35 years of age or younger and who have made outstanding contributions to neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology are invited to apply for the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology. The next deadline for applications for the prize is June 15, 2015. For more information about Dr. Azim and the prize in general, visit www.eppendorf.com/prize.