Society for Neuroscience Awards UCSF Neurobiologist Posthumous Honor

Allison Doupe

The late UC San Francisco neuroscientist Allison Doupe, MD, PhD, will be honored by the Society for Neuroscience with the Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor award at the society’s annual meeting in Chicago later this month.

The Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor is a posthumous award for a neuroscientist who pursued career excellence and exhibited dedication to the advancement of women in neuroscience. The family of the deceased honoree receives an engraved Tiffany & Co. crystal bowl.

During her career as a professor of psychiatry and physiology at UCSF, Doupe made major contributions to the field of systems neuroscience and expanded the study of song learning in zebra finches from its roots in ethology to its current place as an central model system for understanding the neurobiology of sensorimotor learning.

Specifically, her work revealed the role of circuitry between the cortex and the basal ganglia as young birds learn and refine their song from male tutors during a youthful critical period. Doupe and her laboratory also elegantly illuminated the dramatic effect of social context on learning, demonstrating that the basal ganglia generates the variation in a male finch’s performance that is needed for improvement during practice sessions but lets the bird sing perfectly stereotyped renditions in the presence of a potential mate.

Doupe, a native of Montreal, was also a compassionate psychiatrist who served as assistant director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at UCSF, and a beloved role model for female scientists and her many trainees and colleagues throughout the field of neuroscience. Doupe passed away on Oct. 24, 2014, after a long battle with breast cancer. She is survived by her husband, neuroscientist Michael Brainard, PhD, and their twin sons, Sam and Alec.