2007 Donald O. Hebb Distinguished Contribution Award Winner
Dr. Morris Moscovitch
Originally from Romania, Morris Moscovitch was inspired during his undergraduate years at McGill University by the case of the well-known amnesic, H. M., to go on to a career in neuropsychology. After completing a BSc at McGill, Professor Moscovitch went on to earn his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Paul Rozin. His dissertation was entitled "Reaction-time studies assessing the verbal behaviour of the minor hemisphere in normal, right-handed, adult humans (or what does someone in his right mind know?). He then began a long and productive affiliation with the University of Toronto where he is now the Max and Gianna Glassman Chair in Neuropsychology and Aging. Early in his career, Professor Moscovitch held a Medical Research Council Fellowship in Brenda Milner's laboratory at the Montreal Neurological Institute. His clinical neuropsychology interests led to a position in 1986 as consultant in Psychology at the Baycrest Geriatric Hospital in Toronto where he was later appointed senior scientist to the then new Rotman Research Institute--an institution dedicated to research on behavourial changes associated with aging.
Professor Moscovitch began his research career investigating lateralized hemispheric brain function at a time when cognition was barely acknowledged to involve the brain. He was poised to make significant contributions as the constraints imposed by the brain on cognitive organization became increasingly apparent. The 1990's saw an explosive interest in neuropsychology as a means of determining the modularity of cognitive processing and Professor Moscovitch has made fundamental contributions to that enterprise. His research program examines the brain mechanisms that mediate memory, attention, and the recognition of objects and faces. His work is guided by a neuropsychological model of memory founded on three principles: (1) the posterior neocortex mediates influences of memory that operate outside awareness, (2) the medial temporal lobes automatically store consciously perceived events and recover information about those events through cue-driven conscious recollection, and (3) the frontal lobes use memories from medial temporal lobes and posterior neocortex to guide strategic processes that underlie encoding and retrieval processes. Professor Moscovitch's research uses selective and divided attention behavioral tasks in conjunction with memory paradigms and neuroimaging techniques to investigate normal and neurologically impaired memory processes. He has published widely on topics related to memory and visual cognition from three perspectives: basic processes, normal aging, and neurological impairment. Professor Moscovitch has also done collaborative work using non-human species, particularly to examine the effects of controlled hippocampal lesions. His research has had a tremendous impact on the field: he has published over 150 articles; more than 100 of these have been cited at least 20 times each, and 20 have been cited over 100 times each. His work has appeared in such prestigious publications as Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Moscovitch's research has been funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, the McDonnell-Pew Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Alzheimer's Society of Canada.
Professor Moscovitch has also contributed to the field through profession service, currently as editor of Neuropsychologia, and he has served on the editorial boards of nine other journals.
He has been a generous and prolific graduate mentor, supervising more than 20 PhD students, among them professors Marlene Behrmann (Carnegie Mellon University) Patricia Reuter-Lorenz (University of Michigan), and Esther Strauss (University of Victoria). University of Toronto psychology graduate students acknowledged his gift for supervision in awarding him the Psychology Graduate Students' Association Most Valuable Professor award in 2003. Professor Moscovitch's contributions to the field have be recognized by his election as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Canadian Psychological Association. In 2003, the British Experimental Psychology Society invited him to give their Thirty-First Bartlett Lecture.
Professor Moscovitch's approach to the study of cognition embodies Hebb's notion that behaviour seen in clinical settings should inform research. Models of normal cognition resulting from this work ought reciprocally to inform the rehabilitation of impaired cognition due to brain damage. Morris Moscovitch's career is a stellar example of this synergy.