The EPNA 2015 was awarded to Dr. Julien Courtin (Basel, Switzerland) for his publication “Prefrontal parvalbumin interneurons shape neuronal activity to drive fear expression” in the journal NATURE (issue 505, 2014 pages 92-96). Dr. Courtin received his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux in 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Cyril Herry. His doctoral work aimed to study the precise transmission of information to drive behavioural responses. In 2015 he advanced for a postdoctoral position in the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (Basel, Switzerland) in the group of Dr. Andreas Luethi. His present studies center around how different emotions, as e.g. fear, are differentially processed in the brain.
At the 10th FENS Forum in Copenhagen the award ceremony was held as special lecture of ERA NET NEURON/Excellent Papers in Neuroscience entitled “Prefrontal parvalbumin - expressing interneurons control fear expression”.
The award was introduced by Dr. Marlies Dorlöchter, the coordinator of ERA NET NEURON and Erkki Raulo, the Finnish initiator of the NEURON award programme. As Dr. Dorlöchter pointed out:
“Since 2009 the ERA-NET NEURON launches annual calls for the EPNS. This early-career scientist supportive measure adds very well to the research funding activities of our network". The EPNA emphasizes the importance of research into brain function and its diseases and will contribute to integrate the neuroscience research community. The award is designed as a form of support and encouragement for early-career researchers at the early stage of their career. The special lecture and award ceremony was opened by Dr. Marlies Dorlöchter with an overview of the NERUON network activities and opportunities for early-career researchers to apply for research funding within the annual joint transnational calls.
Dr. Raulo presented the EPNA as a continuous highlight to honor outstanding research achievements by early career scientists and introduced the special lecture on behalf of the FENS forum organizers. The award honors the first authorship of a researcher under 35 years of age in a high impact journal within the first five years after dissertation.
Over 200 attendees witnessed the award ceremony when Dr. Courtin detailed on the impressive neuroscientific findings. The lecture explained that two complementary neuronal mechanisms mediated by parvalbumin interneurons (PVINs) synchronize the neuronal activity of prefrontal projection neurons to drive fear expression. Single-unit recordings and optogenetic manipulations in behaving mice were used to show that fear expression is causally related to the phasic inhibition of prefrontal PVINs. The results forward the scientific understanding of how the precise temporal control of fear behaviour is achieved at the level of prefrontal circuits. That is important because synchronization of spiking activity in neuronal networks is a fundamental process that enables the precise transmission of information to drive behavioural responses. In cortical areas, synchronization of principal-neuron spiking activity is regulated through the generation of neuronal oscillations.
Dr. Courtin emphasized "I am really happy to get this award. Such support is indeed promoting a scientific career." Among the audience the President of FENS Professor Dr. Monica de Luca listened attentively and expressed her congratulations for the work. The audience perceived Dr. Courtin’s presentation of experiments and results with rapt attention and both, peer early career scientists and experienced researchers enthused the following high-level discussion.