William T Greenough
CAS Professor of Psychology
Among the world’s leading investigators of experience-related neuronal plasticity in the mammalian brain, Professor Greenough helped establish the idea that learning and memory involve the rapid formation of new synaptic connections between neurons as well as modification of pre-existing connections.
Throughout his career he has sought to understand the brain mechanisms underlying learning and memory. He has been the major proponent of the hypothesis that a key element in both development and memory in mammals is the sculpting (formation combined with retraction) of synaptic connections between neurons. He established several widely accepted phenomena supporting this hypothesis: that new synapses form throughout life in response to environmental influences or specific learned tasks; that new connections can be made very quickly (on the scale of minutes); and that synapse formation is not confined to a small subset of brain structures but is a widely distributed property of the mammalian brain. More recently his work has explored plasticity in nonneuronal cells of the brain as well as the cell biology of fragile X syndrome and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences; a fellow of the American Psychological Society (received its William James Fellow Award for his research career) and the American Psychological Association (received its Distinguished Scientific Contribution award); a member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists; and a University Scholar of the University of Illinois. He has received the Oakley Kunde award for undergraduate teaching. In April 2003 he received the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution, Society for Research in Child Development. He was elected treasurer for 2003-05, Society for Neuroscience. He has trained approximately 20 graduate students and a number of postdoctoral fellows.
Professor Greenough was CAS Director from Spring 2000 until Fall 2009. He was succeeded by CAS Professor of Journalism and Law Leon Dash.