The award, launched in 2000, is the BNA’s most prestigious prize. Every year it recognises one individual who has made a significant impact in their field of work in neuroscience, neurology or mental health research. In addition to carrying out international calibre research, the winner must also have influenced the advancement of neuroscience by participation on high-level committees in the UK and beyond.
The BNA is a fantastic organisation that champions and celebrates neuroscience within and beyond the UK, and I have long admired all their amazing work. So, to be given this award is absolutely thrilling and I am deeply touched. - Prof Irene Tracey
Professor Irene Tracey is a world-class neuroscientist. She has contributed to a better understanding of pain perception, pain relief and nociceptive processing in the injured and non-injured human central nervous system using advanced neuroimaging techniques. She is recognised as one of the pioneers in this area of neuroscience and her active translational research has undoubtedly had significant impacts for healthcare, industry and in supporting drug discovery.
Irene’s career has centred on the application of functional magnetic resonance imaging to the study of pain. This has enabled the capture of quantifiable, objective data about the experience of pain. Her work has laid the foundations to transform the diagnosis and treatment of pain.
A key achievement of Irene’s life’s work has been to highlight through brain imaging why pain perception is often not simply related to the extent of tissue damage (or nociceptive inputs) – it's not a one-to-one mapping. This has led to a step change in our understanding, not only of the brain regions involved in the sensation of pain; but also the anticipation of pain and its modulation by other brain regions. Her research has also led to a fundamental shift in our understanding of chronic pain, and offers the prospect of improved treatment outcomes.
In 1997, Irene helped to found the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain. Under her directorship for 10 years this centre became recognised as one of the world’s leading neuroimaging laboratories. Now the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, this group's achievements include not only integrating neurological and neuroscientific research with state of the art neuroimaging physics and data analysis, but also championing the training of a new generation of neuroscientists.
Alongside senior leadership roles within the University (former Associate Head of the Medical Sciences Division, and currently a Pro-Vice Chancellor without portfolio), Irene has also contributed to neuroscience research policy through her membership of the MRC Neuroscience Mental Health Board (2009-2014) and REF2014. She currently serves on the Council of the MRC. Irene has also served and continues to serve on the committees of national and international learned bodies including: the International Association for the Study of Pain, the British Neuroscience Association and the Lundbeck Brain Prize Committee.