USC neuroscientist to receive Prince of Asturias prize

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, director of USC's new Institute for the Study of the Brain and Creativity, will accept the 2005 Prince of Asturias Award Oct. 21 in Oviedo, Spain.

Little known in English-speaking countries, the Asturias prize ranks among the world's highest honors for influence and selectivity.

Damasio was the sole winner in the scientific category. Past recipients include Craig Venter, who led the team that mapped the human genome; Judah Folkman, who discovered how to kill tumor cells by cutting off their blood supply; and AIDS virus co-discoverers Robert Gallo and Luc Montangier.

The last winner of an undivided prize was primatologist Jane Goodall in 2003.

Winners in the other award categories - arts, social sciences, letters, communication and humanities, international cooperation, concord (equivalent to a peace prize) and sports - have included statesmen Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, astronaut John Glenn and playwright Arthur Miller.

The 22-member jury selected Damasio for his research on "the decisive problems of the basic neuroscience of the mind and of behaviour.

"His contributions have had a major influence on our understanding of the neural bases of decision-making, emotions, language and memory," the award citation states.

Through research papers and acclaimed books such as "Descartes' Error," recently reissued in a 10th anniversary edition, Damasio has shown that emotions play a crucial role in rational thought and decision-making.

His work undercut a century-old movement in neuroscience that considered feelings irrelevant to the study of reason. He belongs to a small group of "most cited researchers" in neuroscience as tracked by the Institute of Scientific Research.

Joseph Aoun, dean of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said: "The Prince of Asturias Award is extremely prestigious an

Contact: Carl Marziali
University of Southern California

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