Tulving wins Gairdner International Award

Endel Tulving, Ph.D., the Clark Way Harrison Distinguished Visiting Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience in Arts & Sciences, is one of six individuals to be awarded the 2005 Gairdner International Award for groundbreaking work in medical research.

Tulving, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, has been a visiting scholar at Washington University since 1996.

Among the most prestigious awards in all of science, “The Gairdners” recognize outstanding contributions by medical scientists worldwide whose work will significantly improve quality of life.

Of the 274 Gairdner winners, 64 have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.

Now in their 46th year, the awards were founded by Toronto businessman James Gairdner.

“The 2005 awards honor outstanding achievements in three very different but important areas of inquiry and discovery: obesity, human memory and gene splicing,” said John Dirks, president of the Gairdner Foundation. “Each of the awardees has done groundbreaking work that is transforming our understanding of how the body functions and how its malfunctions can be overcome.”

Although the Gairdners are usually awarded to medical scientists, Tulving is one of two cognitive psychologists selected to receive the honor in 2005. The awards committee cited his “pioneering research in the understanding of human memory, and providing the necessary framework within which findings in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neuropharmacology can be integrated.”

Tulving is perhaps best known for his research on episodic memory, largely summarized in his 1983 book, Elements of Episodic Memory.

During the 1960s, while most research focused on how memories are acquired and stored, Tulving was the first to argue that researchers should be paying more attention to the equally important but often-neglected memory retrieval processes, or how stored information is accessed.

Tulving argued that the key problem in human memory is retrieval of information, and he spent much of his career in studying factors affecting this.

The Gairdner awards, which include a cash prize of $30,000 (Canadian), will be presented at a dinner held in October in Toronto.