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UC San Diego Professor Wins Prestigious International Prize for Research

Anders M. Dale recognized by Olav Thon Foundation for his pioneering computational neuroimaging techniques across disciplines

A well-known neuroscientist and professor at UC San Diego has received a prestigious award recognizing his achievements in the study of the human brain. The Olav Thon Foundation in Norway has announced that Anders M. Dale, PhD, professor of Neurosciences, Radiology, Psychiatry, Cognitive Science, and Data Science at UC San Diego, is the recipient of its 2022 international research prize within the natural sciences and medicine, worth $5 million Norwegian kroner (approximately $580,000 USD).

“This is a great honor and privilege,” Dale said. “I appreciate the support from the community at UC San Diego that allows me to do this important work, which this award will help me to continue.”

Born in Norway, Dale is internationally known for his research into the functions of the human brain, the effects of aging on the brain and significant contributions to advances in the fields of neuroimaging, neurobiology, and data science. He is the founding director of the Center for Multimodal Imaging and Genetics (CIMG) and Center for Translational Imaging and Precision Medicine (CTIPM) at UC San Diego.

Dale’s research program is focused on the development and application of advanced techniques for acquisition and analysis of multimodal structural and functional imaging data, and integration with genetic and environmental information. Several of these methods have had major, sometimes transformative impact on their respective fields. Examples include:

  • Fully automated methods for segmentation of the cortical surface, subcortical nuclei, and white matter tracts from MRI scans, made available to the research community through the widely used FreeSurfer software package
  • Methods for analysis of functional MRI data, including retinotopic mapping and rapid event related experimental design
  • Methods for integrating structural and functional imaging data, including MRI, electroencephalography (EEG), and magnetoencephalography (MEG), enabling the generation of high-resolution “movies” of brain activity
  • Methods for non-invasive probing of tissue microstructure using diffusion MRI, with important applications to the study of development and aging, as well as cancer detection
  • Methods for prediction of cognitive decline, based on integration of neuroimaging, genetics, molecular biomarkers, and neurocognitive tests
  • A novel integrated framework for Precision Health, combining quantitative imaging, genetics, lab tests, and other health information to construct a Digital Twin or Avatar for a given subject or patient.

Over the years, Dale has had a leading role in several major grant initiatives, including:

  • The Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study (The ABCD Study®) which is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States, a landmark effort to monitor development in almost 12,000 adolescents over a decade
  • The HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study, a newly launched initiative to follow 7,500 children from birth, with advanced neuroimaging, cognitive testing, molecular biomarkers, genetics, and mobile sensors
  • The Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging, a longitudinal behavioral genetic study of cognitive and brain aging and early indicators of risk for Alzheimer’s disease that includes over 1,600 individuals studied since 2001
  • The Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, where Dale’s advanced imaging tools are applied as markers for Alzheimer’s disease progression and for assessing effectiveness of new therapies

“Fundamental to almost any advance in science is the ability to visualize current realities and envision potential solutions,” said Alexander Norbash, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Anders has long been at the forefront in helping colleagues both see the problem and find solutions.”

As a graduate student at UC San Diego, Dale created the foundation of the brain-imaging analysis software FreeSurfer, which is now in use by more than 10,000 researchers around the world. In 2001, along with Dr. Eric Halgren, he cofounded the neuroimaging AI company CorTech Labs, Inc., which offers quantitative imaging and precision health solutions for clinical research and practice.

Along with his professorships at UC San Diego, Dale also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Oslo, Norway.

Since 2013, the Olav Thon Foundation has supported research and outstanding teaching in the mathematical-natural sciences and medical fields.


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