The Heineken Prizes, awarded every two years to five distinguished researchers, are the Netherlands’ most prestigious international science prizes.
The selection jury (with chair Roshan Cools, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at Radboud University Nijmegen and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour) was impressed not only by the depth, but also by the breadth of Kia's research, and its impact. It identified her as a pioneering and distinguished researcher who has helped to pioneer the transition from cognitive psychology to cognitive neuroscience.
Kia was among the first to use several revolutionary techniques to image the brain. For example, early in her career, she measured brain activity via electrodes in the brains of epilepsy patients who had had these electrodes implanted. This led to the discovery of new areas of the brain that play a role in processing words, a major breakthrough in understanding the language network in the human brain. The jury also recognises her commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, for her exceptional mentoring and leadership skills, and calls her a role model for women scientists.
Professor Nobre said:
'I’m deeply humbled and over the moon to receive the C.L. de Carvalho-Heineken Prize for Cognitive Neuroscience. I feel beyond lucky to be at the confluence of so many inspirations, influences, perspectives, ideas, methodological know-how, and empirical investigations of so many talented and generous people. Thank you to my wonderful mentors, students, research fellows, and colleagues. For Luciano’s boundless love and support, there simply are no words.'
Professor Nobre's research
Kia Nobre studies how our brains combine signals from our environment and our memory to shape experiences and direct perception, attention, language and behaviour. Among other things, she focuses on how our brain can concentrate on the most relevant signals from the environment and the relevant items in our short-term memory.
Her research group has played a major role in developing knowledge of the structure of the brain’s attentional control network. Among other things, she discovered that the brain can make predictions about the timing of relevant events, and that these predictions determine where we focus our attention, and so, influence our perception. Kia recently developed new methods to study how long-term memories affect our perception, and uses the knowledge she gains about the brain to research what happens in the case of neurodegenerative diseases. The knowledge of how the brain processes information and creates a mental experience is of great importance for education.