Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of MedicineBiography
Dr. Van Essen is currently Edison Professor and Head of the Anatomy & Neurobiology Department at Washington University in St. Louis. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Neuroscience, founding chair of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping, and President of the Society for Neuroscience. He is a fellow of the AAAS and has received the Peter Raven Lifetime Achievement Award from the St. Louis Academy of Science and the Krieg Cortical Discoverer Award from the Cajal Club. Dr. Van Essen received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry in 1967 from Caltech and his graduate degree in neurobiology in 1971 from Harvard. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard under Drs. David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel and did additional postdoctoral work in Norway and England before returning to Caltech in 1976. He was a faculty member in the Division of Biology at Caltech until 1992, during which time he served as Executive Officer for Neurobiology (1982-1989) and Option Representative for the Computation and Neural Systems program (1986-1991). In 1992 he became Edison Professor of Neurobiology and Head of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Van Essen is internationally known for his research on how the brain organizes and processes visual information. He has made extensive contributions to the understanding of how the brain perceives shape, motion and color and how attention affects neural activity. His work has helped to demonstrate that the brain contains dozens of different areas involved in vision and that these areas are interconnected by hundreds of distinct neural pathways. He and his colleagues have developed powerful new techniques in computerized brain mapping to analyze these visual areas in humans as well as nonhuman primates. This work includes the continued development of an integrated suite of software tools for surface-based analyses of cerebral cortex. These methods are applied to the analysis of cortical structure and function in humans, monkeys and rodents. A broad objective is to develop probabilistic surface-based atlases that accurately convey commonalities as well as differences between individuals.