The Distinguished Career Contributions Award

The Distinguished Career Contributions (DCC) award honors senior cognitive neuroscientists for their distinguished career, leadership and mentoring in the field of cognitive neuroscience.  The recipient of this prize will give a lecture at our annual meeting.

Congratulations to Dr. Marta Kutas on being awarded the 2015 Distinguished Career Contributions Award. Dr. Kutas will give her award lecture on Saturday, March 28, 2015, 5:30 – 6:30 pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

“45 years of Cognitive Electrophysiology: neither just psychology nor just the brain but the visible electrical interface between the twain”

Marta Kutas, MD
Distinguished Professor and Chair, Cognitive Science and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Neurosciences, and Director of the Center for Research in Language, University of California, San Diego.

I’ve spent my scientific life demonstrating that event related brain potentials (ERPs) – warts and all – are temporally exquisite instruments for investigating what the brain does – loosely, the mind. ERPs are effective instruments because they are continuous and instantaneous reflections of brain activity (neuronal communication) which have been proven systematically sensitive to sensory, motor, and psychological variables. Moreover, after careful study in their own right, ERPs in known paradigms, can offer opportunities for looking at what the brain considers qualitatively similar or just quantitatively different and by when, at brain activity that may or may not lead to overt behavior, as well as at hypothetical psychological processes that may not otherwise be readily accessible. I was smitten with ERPs from the beginning; others have warmed up more slowly, if at all. I plan to share aspects of my scientific journey: P3 latency and mental chronometry, RP and specific movement preparation, N400, meaning and modularity, the nogo N200 and seriality of language production, and what ERP data say about the functional role of the visual system in accessing knowledge about an object from its name.

A scientific refrain

Brain brain please don’t go away
And do come again each and every day
Please help me find the right connection
That missing link to my mind to help instruct me
On how I think (for I think I do), upon reflection.
Nu? How it is my neural and body cells construct
What I see, what I hear
What I think, and what I fear
but dare not or care not to reveal in utterances aloud.
yet have routinely allowed to be read
from sensors bound to my head
Electrical and magnetic
— empirically prophetic.


Marta Kutas is Distinguished Professor and Chair, Cognitive Science and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Neurosciences, and Director of the Center for Research in Language, University of California, San Diego. Born behind the Iron Curtain, Kutas immigrated to the United States with her family after the Hungarian Revolution. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Oberlin College in 1971, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Biological Psychology with Professor Emanuel Donchin (and Michael G. Coles) from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1977. She then packed up all her stuff, arrived in San Diego, January 1, 1978, and has yet to leave except for a two year gap as a visitor at the psychology department at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. Kutas went to the UCSD Department of Neurosciences as a postdoctoral fellow to work with Professors Steven A. Hillyard (and Robert Galambos). Two years later, Kutas was fortunate to receive two Research Scientist Development Awards from NIMH back to back and ten years whizzed by. She next joined the (first!) Department of Cognitive Science as a Professor soon after it opened its doors. Kutas holds Honorary Degrees from Oberlin College and Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. She is interested in the relationships between mind, body, brain, and behavior, which she investigates as part of a scientific village with lots of head scratching, elbow grease, with behavioral and cognitive electrophysiological measures and paradigms.

Previous Winner:

2015 Marta Kutas, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
2014 Marsel Mesulam, M.D., Northwestern University
2013 Robert T. Knight, M.D., University of California, Berkeley
2012 Morris Moscovitch, Ph.D., University of Toronto