kavli prize inner ear

Prestigious Kavli Prize in Neuroscience Awarded to Trio of Researchers for Work on Molecular and Neural Mechanisms of Hearing

OSLO, NORWAY — The Kavli Prizes recognize scientists for pioneering advances and are presented every two years in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. Laureates are chosen by committees whose members are recommended by six of the world’s most renowned science societies and academies.

This year, a trio of scientists have been awarded the 2018 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience for recognition of their “pioneering work on the molecular and neural mechanisms of hearing”.


2018 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience Recipients


James Hudspeth has provided the major framework for our understanding of the process that transduces sound into neural signals. Extending from each hair cell is a bundle of fine processes that act as sensors. Hudspeth used ingenious methods to reveal how sound-induced vibrations, which set the hair bundle in motion, evoke an electrical response in the hair cells through a direct mechanical connection between the hair bundle and ion channels. He also revealed how sound signals, which can be extremely small, are amplified within the inner ear. Dr. Hudspeth currently serves as the F.M. Kirby Professor Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Rockefeller University.


Robert Fettiplace has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of sound transduction and demonstrated that each hair cell in the cochlea of the inner ear is sensitive to a specific range of sound frequencies. His experiments revealed that hair cells are organized along the cochlea in a pattern that reflects their frequency selectivity. Using sensitive physiological measurements and theoretical modeling, he discovered that this selectivity reflects an intrinsic electrical property of the cell, set by the density and kinetics of its ion channels that induce a resonance at a particular frequency. Dr. Fettiplace is currently a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin.


Christine Petit has explored the genetics of hereditary deafness in humans and identified more than twenty genes that are required for hearing and inner ear development. She elucidated the mechanisms through which these mutations cause hearing deficits, thus illuminating the unique biology of hair cells and informing deafness diagnosis and counseling. Several of the genes she identified form major components of the hair cell mechanotransduction machinery. Christine Petit is currently a Professor at the Collège de France, head of the Genetics and Physiology of Hearing Laboratory at the Institut Pasteur and serves as Chair for the Scientific Advisory Board of French biotech firm, Sensorion.



About the Kavli Prize

The Kavli Prizes recognize seminal scientific achievements in Astrophysics, Nanoscience and Neuroscience. The Kavli Prize is a partnership between The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation (U.S.), and The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. It is named after Fred Kavli, a Norwegian-born U.S. philanthropist and founder of The Kavli Foundation.

The Kavli Prize in Neuroscience is awarded for outstanding achievement in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the brain and nervous system, including molecular neuroscience, cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, neurogenetics, developmental neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience, and related facets of the brain and nervous system.

Selection of the Kavli Laureates

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters appoints the three prize committees after receiving recommendations from the following international academies and equivalent scientific organizations:

  • The Chinese Academy of Science
  • The French Academy of Sciences
  • The Max Planck Society (Germany)
  • The National Academy of Sciences (US)
  • The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
  • The Royal Society (UK)

The prize committees review the nominated candidates and submit their recommendations to the board of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The President of the Academy then announces the prize winners.


Source: Kavli Prize