Brenda Milner

2009 Balzan Prize for Cognitive Neurosciences

For her pioneering studies of the role of the hippocampus in the formation of memory and her identification of different kinds of memory system

Brenda Milner, cc, goq frs (née Langford), born in Manchester, England, on 15 July 1918, is a British and Canadian citizen.

She is Dorothy J. Killam Professor of Psychology in the Montreal Neurological Institute and Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University.

She earned her BA (1939) and her MA (1949) in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge, her PhD from McGill University (1952) for research on intellectual effects of temporal-lobe damage in man with Professor D.O. Hebb, and her ScD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge (1972).

After her service at the Université de Montréal as Professeur agrégé at the Institut de psychologie (1944-1952), she has been associated with McGill University, where she first became Research Associate in the Psychology Department (1952), then Lecturer (1953), Assistant Professor (1960), Associate Professor (1964) and Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery (1970).

She has received a large number of national and international awards including 20 honorary degrees, is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada as well as a Foreign Affiliate of the US Academy of Sciences and a member of many other national and foreign learned societies. She became an Officer of the Order of Canada (1984) and of Quebec (1985), first recipient of the Wilder Penfield Prize for Biomedical Research (Quebec, 1993), member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (1997), received the Golden Jubilee Medal of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (2002) and the US Academy of Sciences Award in the Neurosciences (2004), the Gairdner Award (2005), the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Cognitive Neuroscience Research (2009), and became the Companion of the Order of Canada (2005) and the Grand Officer of the Order of Quebec (2009).

She continues to contribute to the work of the international scientific community as an invited speaker or lecturer at European and overseas universities, and takes part in administrative Committees and editorial boards.

Among Brenda Milner’s most important articles, we mention:

–    Scoville, W. B. and Milner, B., Loss of recent memory after bilateral hippocampal lesions. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 20, 11-21, 1957
–    Milner, B., Effects of different brain lesions on card sorting. Arch. Neurol., 9, 90-100, 1963
–    Milner, B., Les troubles de la mémoire accompagnant des lesions hippocampiques bilatérales. In Physiologie de l’Hippocampe, P. Passouant (editor), Paris, C.N.R.S., 257-272, 1962. (English translation by the author: Memory disturbance after bilateral hippocampal lesions. In Cognitive Processes and the Brain, P.M. Milner and S. Glickman (editors), Princeton, Van Nostrand, 97-111, 1965
–    Milner, B., Hemispheric specialization: Scope and limits. In The Neurosciences: Third Study Program, F.O. Schmidt and F.G. Worden (editors), Boston, M.I.T. Press, 75-89, 1973
–    Milner, B. and Pigott, S., Memory for different aspects of complex visual scenes after unilateral temporal- or frontal-lobe resection. Neuropsycologia, 31, 1-15, 1993
–    Milner, B., The medial temporal-lobe amnesic syndrome. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 28, 599-611, 2005.

(October 2009)

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