Tomas Hökfelt honored with Golden Kraepelin Medal

November 15, 2012

The Foundation "Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie" has awarded one of the most prestigious prizes in the field of Psychiatric Neurosciences to the Swedish physician and scientist Professor Dr. Tomas Hökfelt. The Emeritus Professor of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has been honoured for his life's work, the research on the chemical communication in the nervous system. His work has had a significant impact on our contemporary concept of psychiatric disorders. As 5th prize winner of the Golden Kraepelin Medal within the last 20 years, Prof. Hökfelt is one of the most outstanding researchers of our time. The prize was awarded on November 15th, 2012, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the opening of the clinic of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry.

The laureate of the Golden Kraepelin Medal Prof. Tomas Hökfelt and Prof. Florian Holsboer (on the left) at the ceremonial award.

Tomas Hökfelt is one of the founders of the chemical and molecular neuroanatomy and, with his scientific research work, he has formed our current concept of signal transduction between neurons. In 1977, Tomas Hökfelt had already described for the first time that neurons communicate with each other via various messengers. Since then, he has been regarded as the founder of the "principle of coexistence", according to which a neuron can simultaneously communicate via several different messenger systems. During the last 30 years, Prof. Hökfelt has decoded the special role neuropeptides play in this process. His detailed studies - both on the distribution and on the effect of the individual messenger systems in the nervous system - have identified peptides as important modulators of the cell-cell communication. Since that time, neuropeptides are considered to play an important role in psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorders and depression but also in cognitive performances like learning and memory.

Within the scope of the academic ceremony, in his laudation, Prof. Florian Holsboer, Director of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, paid tribute to the prize winner as follows: "Tomas Hökfelt is an outstanding example of how scientific rigor and exemplary persistence can move an entire field of research. With his epoch making studies on the connection between neuroanatomy and neurochemistry he follows without any doubt the scientific tradition of Emil Kraepelin, the founder of our Institute. Hökfelt was able to demonstrate what Kraepelin in his inauguration speech at the University in Dorpat in 1886 could only suppose, namely that psychiatric disorders are to be considered as "changes of the chemical composition of the nervous matter"."

Tomas Hökfelt was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1940. He studied medicine at the Karolinska Institute there and did his doctor's degree in 1968. Then, he was Assistant Professor until 1979 and afterwards, until his retirement in 2006, Professor of Histology and Cytology at the Department of Neurosciences of the Karolinska Institute.

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