Neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of University College London (UCL) received the 2015 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize in recognition of her ground-breaking achievements in child and youth development.
Honored with the 2015 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.
Until about 15 years ago, the prevailing opinion amongst neuroscientists was that no major neurodevelopmental changes occur after early childhood; Blakemore has delivered a body of scientific evidence demonstrating that the adolescent brain is continuing to develop.
The social brain develops in adolescence
Her research shows that in adolescence changes occur in the processing of emotional and social information about other people, as well as self-awareness and decision-making. Her findings demonstrate that neural responses to social exclusion, risky decisions and the interpretation of social emotions continue to develop during adolescence. The social brain, that is the brain regions involved in understanding other people, undergoes structural changes and functional reorganization during the second decade of life, possibly reflecting a sensitive period for adapting to one’s social environment. Thus, typical adolescent behavior should not be chiefly attributed to hormones and to changes in the social environment. Instead it is at least partly linked to biological developments in the brain that are adaptive, natural, and inevitable. Typical adolescent behavior, such as risk-taking and peer influence, may be advantageous since it is intrinsically rooted in human development, and therefore, should be reframed as exploratory and potentially socially beneficial as opposed to only risky and problematic.
“It is a great honor to be awarded the Klaus J Jacobs Prize. It is truly humbling that my lab’s research has been recognized by this prestigious award from the Jacobs Foundation. I am indebted beyond words to my mentors and to all the people who have worked in my team at UCL over the past 13 years, and I am grateful to the many children and young people who have taken part in our studies and the schools that support our research. I am also grateful to the colleagues who nominated me for this award. I feel privileged to work with such inspiring and supportive people”, says Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.
Neurobiologist Michael Meaney, a McGill University professor and a senior fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, received the 2014 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize in recognition of his ground-breaking achievements in child and youth development.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2013 honored Professor Greg J. Duncan of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. Duncan has spent more than 30 years investigating the impact of poverty on children’s development. His research focuses primarily on issues of income distribution, poverty and child well-being. Trained as an economist, Duncan has always taken an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the complex dynamics of child and youth development, drawing on insights from the fields of economics, psychology, sociology, neuroscience and epidemiology.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2012 honored the leading international developmental and clinical psychologist Professor Dante Cicchetti. For more than 30 years, Cicchetti has been researching the results of child maltreatment and neglect as well as the conditions that lead to resilience, the psychological capacity to withstand difficult life conditions.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2011 honored the developmental psychologist Professor Michael Tomasello. The principal results of Professor Michael Tomasello’s research are that even one-year-old children who cannot yet speak help and cooperate with other children. This behavior exists without any educational influence from adults.
Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi have opened up new perspectives on the interplay between genetic disposition and environmental influences in the development of children. In 2002, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi published groundbreaking findings in the renowned journal Science regarding the complex interplay between genetic disposition and environmental influences in the development of antisocial behavior.
Laurence Steinberg has made a lasting contribution to how the development of young people is understood by both scientists and politicians.
Laurence Steinberg once described his own childhood and youth as “disgustingly normal”. Today, Laurence Steinberg is regarded as one of the most distinguished experts in adolescent psychological development.