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Society for Neuroscience to honor Michael Stryker, Allen Institute board member, with 2023 Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience

The award, which recognizes outstanding career and research achievements, is the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Neuroscience.

By Society for Neuroscience


2 min read

The Society of Neuroscience (SfN) will honor Michael P. Stryker, Ph.D., with the Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience. The award recognizes an outstanding scientist who has made significant contributions to neuroscience and is named after neuroscientist Dr. Ralph W. Gerard who helped establish the Society for Neuroscience and served as its honorary president. The award includes a $30,000 prize.

Michael Stryker Allen Institute Board

Michael Stryker is a neuroscientist and the former Chair of Physiology at the University of California San Francisco. His work and research profoundly transformed the understanding of how the visual system functions, develops, and changes based on sensory experience.

Stryker’s rigorous demonstration that orientation selectivity develops in the visual cortex even with no visual experience was followed by his laboratory’s discoveries that spontaneous retinal activity is critical to normal development of the visual parts of the brain, and that inhibition plays a central role in regulating a critical period of plasticity in early life, a finding that may help explain some neurodevelopmental disorders.

“The Society is honored to recognize this year’s awardees, whose groundbreaking work has transformed our understanding of plasticity in the mammalian brain — from the synaptic level to the systems level — as well as uncovered neuronal mechanisms behind addiction, compulsion, and depression,” SfN President Oswald Steward said. “These neuroscientists’ innovative approaches and paradigm-shifting findings have overturned previous doctrine, revolutionized our understanding of the field, and provided hope for novel therapeutic approaches.”

Stryker’s work changed the terms of the nature-nurture debate by showing that common mechanisms underlie both innate and experience-dependent development. He and his colleagues distinguished juvenile plasticity from slower, qualitatively different adult plasticity and demonstrated manipulations that enhance plasticity in the visual cortex and create a second critical period.

He also pioneered the use of ferrets and mice as model systems for the study of the mammalian visual system, each of which has initiated new areas of research now conducted by many laboratories. Stryker’s classic studies are in every major neuroscience textbook and are fundamental to the field’s common understanding of how experience influences cortical development and plasticity.

About the Allen Institute

The Allen Institute is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization founded by philanthropist and visionary, the late Paul G. Allen. The Allen Institute is dedicated to answering some of the biggest questions in bioscience and accelerating research worldwide. The Institute is a recognized leader in large-scale research with a commitment to an open science model. Its research institutes and programs include the Allen Institute for Brain Science, launched in 2003; the Allen Institute for Cell Science, launched in 2014; the Allen Institute for Immunology, launched in 2018; and the Allen Institute for Neural Dynamics, launched in 2021. In 2016, the Allen Institute expanded its reach with the launch of The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, which identifies pioneers with new ideas to expand the boundaries of knowledge and make the world better. For more information, visit

Science Programs at Allen Institute