Eric Kandel said he found out he had won the Nobel Prize in medicine before dawn Monday when his wife, Denise, handed him the phone and said, "Stockholm is calling."
Two Americans and a Swede won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for discoveries about how brain cells communicate, research that laid the groundwork for Prozac and other drugs for depression and Parkinson’s disease.
The awards were announced in Stockholm, Sweden.
Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Kandel will share the $915,000 prize for pioneering work that could lead to new treatments for depression, Alzheimer’s disease, addiction and other mental disorders.
Carlsson, 77, is with the University of Goteborg in Sweden. Greengard, 74, is with Rockefeller University in New York, and Kandel, 70, is an Austrian-born U.S. citizen at Columbia University in New York.
The three winners worked largely independently.
Carlsson was honored for work in the late 1950s that showed a substance called dopamine is a key chemical messenger between brain cells. He realized the implication for Parkinson’s disease, which was later shown to result from a dopamine deficiency in part of the brain.
The work helped lead to development of a drug, L-dopa, to compensate for the missing dopamine. The drug is now standard treatment.
The Nobel committee said Carlsson’s work strongly contributed to the development of a class of antidepressants, including Prozac, that prolong the action of serotonin, another chemical messenger.
"The discoveries of Arvid Carlsson have had great importance for the treatment of depression, which is one of our most common diseases," the citation said.
Greengard was honored for showing how brain cells react to the arrival of dopamine and other chemical messengers.
Kandel’s work focused on the biology of learning and memory. It demonstrated that changes at synapses — the places where chemical messengers pass between brain cells — are crucial in forming memories.
The winners of the prizes for physics and chemistry will be announced Ttoday, with the economics prize on Wednesday and the peace prize on Friday. No date has been set for the literature prize.
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