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Laureates / 

Nancy Kanwisher

Nancy Kanwisher is the Walter A. Rosenblith professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Kanwisher received her bachelor's degree in biology from MIT in 1980, but her introduction to science started much earlier. Growing up, she accompanied her father, a field biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, on expeditions to Norway. Kanwisher completed her PhD in 1986 at MIT, where she was mentored by cognitive psychologist Molly Potter. During her graduate studies, Kanwisher studied the cognitive phenomenon of repetition blindness, in which people viewing a series of words in rapid succession tend to subconsciously ignore repeated words. Following her PhD, Kanwisher received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in Peace and International Security to study how cognitive biases affect perceptions of policy. Kanwisher then held faculty positions at the University of California, Los Angeles and Harvard University before she returned to MIT in 1997.

Over the past several decades, Kanwisher’s work has centered on mapping aspects of human cognition to regions of the brain, starting with her landmark discovery of the brain’s hub for processing faces in 1997. Kanwisher has since systematically pinpointed the areas of the brain that respond to places, bodies, sentence meaning, music, and others.

Kanwisher has received a number of other prestigious awards and honors, including the Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1999, the Golden Brain Award from the Minerva Foundation in 2007, and the 2022 NAS Award in the Neurosciences. She has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2005 and as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2009.