Dr. Andreas Tolias, assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, has been awarded the National institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award.

Tolias was honored at this year's Seventh Annual NIH Director's Pioneer Award symposium in Maryland.

The award, up to $500,000 per year for five years, is given to scientists who show exceptional creativity in proposing bold and highly innovative research approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research.

Tolias' research goal is to unravel the elementary principles that underlie cortical computations. His team studies cortical function in vivo, in behaving animals, at the circuit level by following a multidisciplinary approach by combining electrophysiological and two-photon imaging methods for multi-neuronal recording with molecular techniques for circuit tracing and manipulation. His group also uses computational and theoretical methods for data analysis and for modeling cortical circuit function.

"The NIH Director's Pioneer Award will enable us to take a novel and fresh approach to develop methods that will allow us to search for the elementary information processing modules in the neocortex and decipher the neural code. This research direction may also have the potential to provide a new approach to study neuropsychiatric diseases," said Tolias.

Dr. Dora Angelaki, professor and chair of neuroscience at BCM, said this is not only a great honor for Tolias, but for the department as well.

"We are proud of his work and I am looking forward to seeing his next achievements within our department," she said.

The NIH Director's Pioneer Award Program, established in 2004, is part of the NIH Common Fund, which includes the NIH Director's Pioneer, New Innovator, and Transformative Research Projects Awards. The Common Fund, enacted into law by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act, supports trans-NIH programs with a particular emphasis on innovation and risk taking.