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18. November 2009 19:05

Professors Chris and Uta Frith win the European Latsis Prize 2009

Professors Uta and Chris Frith winners of the 2009 Latsis Prize

Professors Uta and Chris Frith (c) Emma Wesley

Professors Chris and Uta Frith of UCL (University College London), UK and Aarhus University, Denmark will today be awarded the European Latsis Prize for their contribution to understanding the human mind and brain.

The European Latsis Prize is valued at 100,000 Swiss francs (€66,000). The prize is funded by the Geneva-based Latsis Foundation and awarded by the European Science Foundation to an individual or a research group who, in the opinion of their peers, has made the greatest contribution to a particular field of European research.

“It’s exciting to be awarded this prize and particularly to receive it together, recognizing our work individually and as a team” said Chris Frith. “Our collaboration shows that not only is it valuable to cross disciplines, but it is also valuable to cross national boundaries. Europe is uniquely rich in the variation you can find in expertise and approaches. In every country there is something worth borrowing or learning about in relation to knowledge and skills.”
The European Latsis Prize 2009 will be awarded during the Annual Assembly of the European Science Foundation on Thursday 19 November 2009 in Strasbourg, France.

The research field for the 2009 prize is "The Human Brain - The Human Mind". The work of Chris and Uta Frith has shaped the way researchers and clinicians think about mind and brain and various socio-cognitive deficits. They are responsible for paradigm shifts across areas as wide-ranging as autism and schizophrenia research, consciousness studies, dyslexia and social neuroscience.  The prize is awarded to them as a couple and they were nominated as such. Both Uta and Chris Frith see their marital and academic partnership as the strongest formative influence on their careers.

Uta Frith comments: “I think we are a prime example of the benefits of the kind of interpersonal and cross-cultural cooperation that we are now studying explicitly with our Danish colleagues at Aarhus University. We have always discussed each other’s research and more recently our constant hidden collaboration has become visible to others as we now tend to publish together.”

Chris Frith continues: “If I had not met Uta my research career would have been very different. It has been important to us that, until very recently, we have always worked in different institutions and in different topics. As a result my research has been fertilized by the different approaches and topics that engaged Uta.”

In the past decades knowledge about both the brain and mental activities has increased exponentially. Although both fields continue to generate research independently of the other, it is in the interdisciplinary investigation of the relationship between the functions of the brain and the activities of the mind, that groundbreaking research is taking place today.

The criteria used in the selection procedure are scientific excellence, a focus on the relation between brain and mind, societal impact, and contribution to European progress.  The nominations were evaluated by a jury of eminent scientists in the field.

Former recipients of the European Latsis Prize are:
2008 "Astrophysics", Simon White, Germany/United Kingdom
2007 "Medical Imaging", Willi Kalender, Germany
2006 "Immigration and Social Cohesion in Modern Societies", Rainer Bauböck, Austria
2005 "Nano-Engineering", Donal Bradley, United Kingdom
2004 "Bioinformatics", Amos Bairoch, Switzerland
2003 "Archaeology", Colin Renfrew, United Kingdom
2002 "Cognitive Sciences", Annette Karmiloff-Smith, United Kingdom
2001 "Climate Research", André Berger, Belgium2000 "Molecular Structure", Kenneth Holmes, Germany/United Kingdom
1999 "Research and/or Innovation in Education", Jürgen Baumert, German

For more information on the Latsis Prize please see

Notes to editors

Professors Chris and Uta Frith biographical details

Chris Frith was born on 16 March 1942 in England, Uta Frith on 25 May 1941 in Germany. They first met at the University of London where they did their PhDs in Psychology and married in 1966. Both Chris and Uta Frith worked as staff scientists at the UK Medical Research Council. In 1994 Chris Frith was appointed Professor of Neuropsychology at UCL Institute of Neurology and was founder member of its Functional Imaging Laboratory. Uta Frith became in 1996 Professor of Cognitive Development at UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and its deputy director (1998-2006). At present, both Uta and Chris are Emeritus Professors at UCL and Visiting Professors at Aarhus University in Denmark. Chris Frith is part of the European Science Foundation EUROCORES research programme “Conciousness in a Natural and Cultural Context” (CNCC).

Professor Chris Frith began his career with the study of schizophrenia, trying to understand its symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. In the 1980s he pioneered the applications of brain imaging in the research of mental processes and the relations between neural and cognitive functions. His latest book ‘Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World’ (2007) sums up his experimental research and explains the way physiological and mental processes, the brain and the mind, interrelate, and how humans perceive the physical reality of the external world. His neuroimaging experiments have confirmed that our feelings and thoughts have their neural counterparts, but also that there is much that happens in the brain which never reaches our awareness. The book received the 2008 Book Award from the British Psychological Society.

Professor Uta Frith focuses on developmental disorders of autism, Asperger syndrome and dyslexia. Through her research she has shifted attention towards the neuropsychological basis of these disorders and developed some of the major theories that explain them. Uta Frith and her colleagues showed that people with autism lack a ‘theory of mind’, the mind’s ability to think about itself and about the minds of others, which is essential in engaging in social activities. They further identified the underlying brain system and demonstrated that the lack of this spontaneous ability in autistic individuals is responsible for their difficulties in social communication. Uta Frith’s book ‘Autism: Explaining the Enigma’ (1989, 20032) provided the first coherent account of what happens in the mind and brain of a person with autism and conveyed the results of her research to wide readership. In the case of both autism and dyslexia Uta Frith is keen to translate her basic research to education programmes; she is a member of the Advisory Panel of OECD Network on Learning Science and has co-authored a book ‘Learning Brain: Lessons for Education’.

Chris and Uta’s joint, seminal, paper ‘Interacting Minds - A Biological Basis’ (1999) marked a move from studying subjects in isolation and the inception of social cognitive neuroscience concerned with the biological foundations of social cooperation. Within the ‘Interacting Minds’ project at Aarhus University they are developing this approach further, exploring the mechanisms through which minds interact. The goal is to extend their research into clinical examination of interaction disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, and get a complete picture of the causal chains leading to those conditions. To arrange interviews or for further information please contact:

Chloe Kembery, ESF press office     
ckembery[at]  Tel +33 (0) 388-762-158 Cell +33 (0) 643-172-382 

Ruth Howells, UCL Media Relations office
ruth.howells[at] Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9739, Cell: +44 (0)7990 675 947

Andreas Roepstorff, Interacting Minds/CFIN
andreas[at] Tel +45 8949 3030 Cell +45 2636 2772

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an independent, non-governmental organisation that promotes collaboration in scientific research, funding of research and science policy across Europe. Established in 1974, it represents 80 national funding bodies, research-performing agencies, academies and learned societies from 30 countries. Through its activities and influential membership the foundation has enabled cross-border cooperation in Europe and made major contributions to science globally.  The ESF covers humanities, social sciences, life, earth and environmental sciences, medical sciences, physical and engineering sciences.

About UCL Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. UCL is the third-ranked university in the 2009 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2009 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay. UCL currently has over 12,000 undergraduate and 8,000 postgraduate students. Its annual income is over £600 million.

About Interacting Minds/CFIN The Interacting Minds project at Aarhus University examines the links between the human capacity for minds to interact and the putative biological substrate, which enables this to happen. It is housed at the Danish National Research Foundation’s Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN), a cross disciplinary brain research centre at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital. CFIN does both basic research – e.g. on brain metabolism, neuroconnectivity and cognitive neuroscience and applied medical research of different neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke and depression. More information

Media contact:

Ms. Chloe KemberyE-Mail