American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects neuroscientist Larry Young

By Holly Korschun | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | April 23, 2014

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Larry Young

Emory neuroscientist Larry Young, PhD, has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research.

Young is William P. Timmie Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine; chief, Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders at Yerkes National Primate Research Center; and director, Center for Translational Social Neuroscience (CTSN) and Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition at Emory University.

Young's research is focused on understanding the genetic and neurobiological mechanisms underlying complex social behaviors, including social bonding and social attachments. He is most well known for his research examining the mechanisms underlying pair bond formation in monogamous prairie voles, but has expanded his research to include humans and nonhuman primates.

His studies have highlighted the roles of oxytocin and vasopressin in regulating social behavior. This work has important implications for psychiatric disorders characterized by disruption in social cognition, including autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Young's lab is now using this basic understanding of social cognition to identify novel drugs to treat social deficits in psychiatric disorders.

As director of Emory's CTSN, Young leads investigators at Yerkes Research Center, Emory School of Medicine, Emory College and Marcus Autism Center in research that is complementary to his own in seeking to understand the basic neurobiology and genetics of social behavior, including empathy, social bonding, cooperation and social reciprocity. The CTSN also is working to develop new treatment strategies for improving social functioning in psychiatric disorders characterized by impaired social function.

"With his research focus and groundbreaking discoveries concerning the most fundamental aspects of social behavior, Larry Young has distinguished both himself and Emory University," says S. Wright Caughman, MD, executive vice president for health affairs, Emory University, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and Chairman of Emory Healthcare. "I am extremely proud of his accomplishments and this outstanding recognition."

Young's first book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, presents a unified theory of how love, sex and human social bonding is created in our brains, how that creation drives our behavior, and how these mechanisms fit into social, historical and political contexts.

After earning his bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Georgia, Young completed graduate training in zoology and received his doctorate from the University of Texas. He then moved to Emory University for his postdoctoral training and joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Emory School of Medicine in 1996.

Young has published over 150 peer reviewed publications, including in top tier journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Nature Genetics, PNAS and Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. His excellence in research has been recognized by several awards and honors, including the Golden Brain Award from the Minerva Foundation, election as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and election as President of the Society for Social Neuroscience. He is among the youngest members elected to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

Some of the world's most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Members of the 2014 class include winners of the Nobel Prize; the Wolf Prize; the Pulitzer Prize; National Medal of the Arts; MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Fulbright Fellowships; and Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony Awards.

At Emory, Young joins a distinguished group of 11 Academy members, including Emory President James Wagner and President Jimmy Carter, and only five members elected in the sciences: Max Cooper, Mahlon DeLong, Frans DeWaal, Donald Hopkins, and Bruce Levin.

Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading "thinkers and doers" from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Margaret Meade and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 11, 2014, at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

The list of the new 2014 members is located at www.amacad.org/members.aspx.