National Academy of Sciences Honors Penn Psychologist Michael Kahana With Troland Research Award

PHILADELPHIA –- The National Academy of Sciences has honored Michael J. Kahana of the University of Pennsylvania and 16 other researchers with awards in recognition of extraordinary scientific achievements in the areas of biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and psychology.

Kahana, professor in the Department of Psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, and the director of the Computational Memory Lab at Penn, has been awarded the Troland Research Award, an honor given for innovative experimental, theoretical, and computational work leading to new insights regarding the dynamics of human episodic memory.

The Troland Research Award provides $50,000 annually to further the empirical research of young investigators studying within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology. Research topics include, for example, sensation, perception, motivation, emotion, learning, memory, cognition, language and action.
Kahana and his colleagues use mathematical modeling and computational techniques to study human memory, focusing on neurocomputational mechanisms of human episodic and spatial memory, the memory humans use for both significant life events and common daily activities.

In 2009, Kahana’s research led to a better understanding of how the dopaminergic system of the human brain seems tuned to learn whenever the unexpected happens. In 2007, Kahana’s team was able to pinpoint brain waves that distinguish true from false memories, providing a better understanding of how memory works and creating a new strategy to help epilepsy patients retain cognitive function.

An awards ceremony for the recipients will take place on April 25 during the Academy’s annual meeting.

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