MacArthur Fellows Program

Paul Adams

Neurobiologist | Class of 1986

Stony Brook, New York
39 at time of award
Published August 1, 1986

About Paul's Work

Paul Adams is a neurobiologist who studies ion channels – proteins in cell membranes that control movement of electrical charges.

His graduate and postdoctoral work showed that many drugs work by plugging open ion channels in synaptic membranes.  Since coming to the United States in 1977, Adams has discovered new varieties of ion channels which are involved in nerve cell excitability.  He focuses on neurons and axonal circuitry in the cortex and thalamus.  Using computer simulation, mathematical techniques, and analysis of neocortical physiology, he investigates how learning factors into the formation and refinement of elaborate neural networks.  His research provides critical insights into the process of learning, how sleep affects the brain, and their implications for memory and consciousness.


Adams is a professor and researcher in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.  Previously, he had been at the University of Texas in Galveston, at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.

Adams received a B.A. (1968) from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. (1974) from the University of London.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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