While it may lack the cachet of The Marshmallow Test, the subject of the second 2015 Golden Goose Award may also seem familiar to many.
Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel will be recognized this September for their work in neuroplasticity (something at least one company is using as a selling point in its advertisements) research. Supported by grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Institutes of Health, Wiesel and Hubel researched how the visual centers of cats and monkeys processed information. A breakthrough prompted by accidental movement of a slide allowed the two to determine that certain neurons in the eye were responding to particular kinds of stimulation.
But that serendipity is not what prompted the award, it was the subsequent work on newborn animals, where Hubel and Wiesel determined that the brain could rewire neurons to adapt to stimulation (or its absence). This neuroplasticity declined with age.
It also allowed clinicians to improve their treatment for childhood cataracts and other eye impairments. They now understood it was not enough simply to correct the physical defect of the eye, the corresponding neurons in the brain needed to be trained to adapt to the change in stimulation. It was this connection to neuroplasticity, which was not expected from the initial research into visual processing, that best fits the intentions of the Golden Goose Award.
Doctors Hubel and Wiesel will be presented their award, along with the other 2015 recipients, at a Washington, D.C. ceremony on September 17.