Oscar Marín wins 2023 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award
Press release: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)
20 April 2023
Oscar Marín contributions to the field of neurodevelopment and neurodevelopmental disorders recognised by the 2023 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award
The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) is pleased to announce Oscar Marín as the recipient of the 2023 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award, in recognition of his achievements in advancing our understanding of the development of the cerebral cortex and the aetiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. The ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award is presented annually and recognises distinguished research in applied and translational neuroscience.
Oscar Marín is professor of neuroscience at King’s College London and director of the MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders. His research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development and function of the cerebral cortex has helped to explain how genetic and environmental factors interact during brain development to shape the neural circuits that underlie cognition, emotion, and behaviour, and has shed new light on how different types of neurons are generated, how they migrate to their final destinations in the brain, and how they establish the complex connections that underlie cognitive and behavioural functions.
Marín was the first to propose that specific classes of GABAergic interneurons derive from molecularly distinct pools of progenitor cells located in spatially segregated regions within the subpallium. Recent work from his laboratory has shown that the fate of interneurons is established as they become postmitotic and begin their migration towards the developing cortex, both in mice and humans. Notably, he has also found that network activity in the adult brain dynamically adjusts the properties of specific classes of interneurons in the cerebral cortex by regulating the expression of transcriptional factors that act as terminal selectors of neural identity. This body of work is the foundation of our current conceptual framework for the emergence of neural diversity in the cerebral cortex.
The discovery of the remote origin of cortical interneurons led Marín to realise that many neurons move in the embryonic brain through a novel mode of migration known as tangential migration. Marín and his team discovered the first chemoattractive molecule for tangentially migrating interneurons, proving that tangentially migrating cells are mobile guideposts for growing axons and that the tangential migration of a specific population of early-born GABAergic neurons regulates the formation of thalamocortical connections.
Marín pioneered the identification of molecules regulating the wiring of interneurons in health and disease. He and his colleagues determined that the schizophrenia susceptibility gene ErbB 4 controls the connectivity of specific populations of interneurons. His finding that the loss of ErbB4 in interneurons causes functional and behavioural phenotypes that resemble those observed in schizophrenia was subsequently validated in schizophrenia patients, demonstrating the transformative bench-to-bedside potential of this research. Marín and colleagues have also recently discovered that the survival of cortical interneurons in mice depends on the activity of pyramidal cells in a critical window of postnatal development, a process that requires PTEN. More recently, they have discovered that local protein synthesis is required for synapse formation in the cerebral cortex in a cell type-specific and synapse type-specific manner.
As well as revolutionising our understanding of the cerebral cortex, Oscar Marín’s research has also been instrumental in developing new therapeutic approaches for neuropsychiatric disorders. His work on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cortical development, for instance, has provided important insights into the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. These insights have led to the development of novel therapies aimed at correcting the underlying cellular and molecular abnormalities that contribute to these conditions.
In announcing the award, ECNP Award Committee chair Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Germany, said, “Oscar Marín’s winning of the 2023 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award is a testament to his outstanding contributions to the field of developmental neurobiology and his commitment to advancing our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain development and function. His work has not only deepened our understanding of the brain, but has also paved the way for new therapeutic approaches to neuropsychiatric disorders. We congratulate him on this well-deserved honour”.
Oscar Marín will receive the award during the 36th ECNP Congress on 7-10 October 2023 in Barcelona, Spain, where he will deliver the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award plenary lecture.
The ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award recognises innovative and distinguished research achievements in applied and translational neuroscience. The award is granted each year, alternating between basic science and clinical research. The award carries a prize of EUR 10,000, which accompanies the winner’s review article in European Neuropsychopharmacology.
ECNP is an independent scientific association whose mission is to advance the science of the brain, promote better treatment and enhance brain health. The annual ECNP Congress attracts some 5,000 scientists and clinicians from across the world to discuss the latest advances in brain research in Europe’s largest meeting on brain science. More information about ECNP, its aims and activities, can be found at www.ecnp.eu.
More information on the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award can be found here.
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