1990: Allman

Professor John M. Allman
Biology Division (Psychology)
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

October 17, 1989

Scientist Honored for Revealing Role of Brain in Vision, Memory

BERKELEY, CA – John M. Allman, Hixon Professor Psychobiology at the California Institute of Technology, has won the 1990 Golden Brain Award from the Minerva Foundation for ioneering research that has revealted how the brain processes information from the eyes.

Allman is the sixth recipient of the award, presented annually for exceptional basic research on vision and the brain. He will be honored at a dinner on Thursday, October 18, following a lecture he will give at the University of California, Berkeley.

Announcing Allman's selection, Executive Officer Elwin Marg said, "John Allman's research has consistently challenged and changed the conventional scientific wisdom about visual perception. His elegant work reflects a lifelong interest in the evolution of the capacity of the brain, and has set a new agneda for the study of the brain."

Currently, Allman is exploring the role of the brain in visual memory and learning. His work has influenced integrated circuit design for artificial visual systems – including developmento f a chip to achieve color constancy in video cameras – and may someday help people suffering from visual disorientation, like victims of amnesia or Alzheimer's disease.

In the late 1960s, Allman and co-worker Jon Kaas discovered new areas of the brain responsible for processing visual stimuli. Allman has since shown that distinct parts of the brain process different features of visual perception, such as motion or form. He has also found that the various areas work together cooperatively to integrate visual information – a function that enables us to see the world as a continuous whole.

Allman, 47, joined the Caltech faculty in 1974, after receiving a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Chicago and doing postdoctoral work in neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin. He was named Hixon Professor of Psychobiology in 1989, succeeding Nobel Laureate Roger Sperry.

Allman's lecture at Berkeley, "Evolution of Neocortex," will examine how the development of neocortex, a part of the brain that is unique to mammals and plays the key role in vision, is related to other characteristic mammalian features, such as warmbloodedness, lactation, and play. He will speak at 2 p.m. in 2 Le Conte Hall.

The lecture is one of two co-sponsored by the Minerva Foundation and Berkeley's School of Optometry in celebration of the Decade of the Brain.

The second lecture in the series, "Function of Striate Cortex," will be given by Semir Zeki, professor of neurobiology at University College, London, England. Zeki, a fellow of the Royal Academy, was the first recipient of the Golden Brain Award in 1985. He will speak on Friday, October 19, at 2 p.m. in 2 Le Conte Hall.

Other past recipients of the Golden Brain Award are Professors Denis Baylor of Stanford University, Jeremy Nathans of The Johns Hopkins University, Gian Poggio of Johns Hopkins; and David Sparks of the University of Pennsylvania.


1990: Professor John M. Allman