John H. Morrison, PhD, Dean of Basic Sciences and the Graduate School of Biological Sciences of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, has received a MERIT Award) from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award is grant support from the NIH that honors a longstanding and distinguished record in scientific research and achievement. Dr. Morrison is the fifth researcher at Mount Sinai to receive a MERIT Award in the last four years.
The $5 million MERIT Award will support Dr. Morrisons research over the next 10 years. Dr. Morrison received the award for his work examining the effects of aging on the brain, which he has been working on for the last two decades.
Dr. Morrison is investigating the neuroplasticity or adaptability of brain cells, especially those involved with learning and memory. Typically, brain cells lose their neuroplasticity during normal aging. Dr. Morrisons goal is to identify when and where changes in brain cell neuroplasticity take place, and how to intervene to promote successful brain cell adaptability. This, in turn, may help reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline, or possibly even dementia and Alzheimers disease, he explained.
That the MERIT Award comes at a time when funding from the National Institutes of Health is shrinking is especially noteworthy, said Dr. Morrison. This kind of financial support from the NIH during a challenging time for researchers is a testament to the strength of the entire Mount Sinai faculty.
To put the grant in perspective, only 10 percent of researchers submitting grant requests to the NIH are approved each year; of that 10 percent, less than two percent receive MERIT Award support. To have five MERIT awardees at Mount Sinai at one time is an achievement, says Dr. Morrison.