Since 2009 the ERA-NET NEURON launches annual calls for an "EXCELLENT PAPER IN NEUROSCIENCE AWARD". As Dr. Marlies Dorlöchter, the coordinator of NEURON, pointed out: "This early-career scientist supportive measure adds very well to the research funding activities of our network". The EXCELLENT PAPER IN NEUROSCIENCE AWARD emphasizes the importance of research into brain function and its diseases and will contribute to integrate the neuroscience research community. The award is designed as a form of support and encouragement for early-career researchers at the early stage of their career.

The EPNA 2013 was awarded to Dr. Nadia Kaouane for her publication “Glucocorticoids can induce PTSD-like memory impairments in mice” in the journal Science (Issue 335, p 1510, 2012). Dr. Kaouane received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux in 2010 under the supervision of Dr. Aline Desmedt. Her doctoral work aimed to study and establish a mice model of PTSD-like memories. In 2012 she advanced for a postdoctoral position in the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP, Vienna) in the group of Dr. Wulf Haubensak. Her present studies center around how different emotions, as fear and reward, are differentially processed in the brain.

The Award Ceremony was opened by Dr. Marlies Dorlöchter with an overview of the NERUON network activities and opportunities for early-career researchers to apply for research funding within the annual joint transnational calls. Dr. Erkki Raulo, the Finnish initiator of the NEURON award programme presented the “Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award” as a continuous highlight to honor outstanding research achievements by early career scientists and introduced the special lecture on behalf of the FENS forum organizers.

Over 150 attendees witnessed the award ceremony when Dr. Kaouane (IMP, Vienna, Austria) detailed on the impressive neuroscientific findings. The lecture explained that exposition to very stressful events (like e.g. war, terrorist attacks or car accidents) can result in severe pathological states such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This psychiatric disease is characterized by particular memory alterations: a hypermnesia (the condition of having an unusually precise memory) of some details of a traumatic event associated with the forgetting of the traumatic context. Subjects develop excessive fear reactions when exposed again to similar details in different contexts. However, effective treatments for this disease are lacking. To address this lack, the team around Kaouane developed a behavioral model that indicated biological changes as result of PTSD-like memory impairments induced by the glucocorticoid stress hormones. It could be demonstrated that PTSD-like memory impairments in the model were accompanied by cerebral (brain) activity reorganization, and more specifically within the hippocampus-amygdala circuit, which is essential for coding memories associated with fear. The activity of the hippocampus, a structure required for all knowledge processing associated with a specific context, decreases which may explain the amnesia (forgetting) of the traumatic context.

"I am so happy to get this award. Such support is really promoting a scientific career." smiles Dr. Kaouane. The audience perceived Dr. Kaouane’s presentation of experiments and results with rapt attention and both, peer early career scientists and experienced researchers enthused the following high-level discussion.

The award honors the first authorship of a researcher under 35 years of age in a high impact journal within the first five years after dissertation. It is "Highly ambitious and rewarding the scientific efforts of particularly early career scientists" says Dr. Erkki Raulo. The winner(s) are invited as special NEURON lecturers in an international conference. A special cooperation of Dr. Raulo with NEURON gave the awardee the opportunity to present her work at the renowned 9th FENS Forum of Neuroscience in 2014 in Milan. The award is indeed a relatively recent honor on the science market reckons Dr. Kaouane "I was encouraged by my supervisor to submit the application".

The ERA-NET NEURON is a network of European funding for neuroscience research and has been set up to link 21 European national research funding agencies and ministries in order to jointly support research in the field of disease-related neurosciences.