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BSC executive council member wins 2022 L'Oréal-UNESCO women in science award

Updated: 2022-07-07


UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and Jean-Paul Agon, chairman of L'Oreal and chairman of the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation, present Hu Hailan with the 2022 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Award. [Photo/bsc.org.cn]

Hu Hailan, a professor at Zhejiang University's School of Brain Science and Brain Medicine and director of the MOE Frontier Center of Brain Science and Brain-machine Integration, received the 2022 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards.

Hu, also executive council member of the Biophysical Society of China (BSC), was awarded the prize along with four other female scientists at the 2022 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards ceremony held on June 23 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.

The award was co-founded by the UNESCO and L’Oréal Group in 1998. It is given yearly to five eminent female scientists across the globe who have made remarkable contributions to scientific progress, to recognize and support their research careers.

Hu received the award "for her major discoveries in neuroscience, in particular her work on depression, which has informed the development of next generation drugs for depression", said the L'Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science webpage.

Although the brain nerve has always been a mystery, Hu said she believes that "one day in the future, based on our understanding and cognition of the neural mechanism behind mental illness, human beings will be able to create a cure that relieves the mentally ill from suffering."


Hu Hailan gives a special report at the French Academy of Sciences on June 21. [Photo/bsc.org.cn]

At Zhejiang University, Hu and her team studied how emotions and social behaviors are encoded in human brains and the way they are shaped by experience through changes in related neural circuits.

Hu found that ketamine, an anesthetic, has a rapid and efficient effect on habenula, a brain region highly active for people with depression.

Ketamine is significantly more effective than traditional antidepressants, and this direct link provides a new perspective on understanding the pathogenesis of depression and treating its core symptoms. It is one of the most important discoveries in mental health in recent years.

Practical and credible truths lie in the scientific world, said Hu, encouraging women who are interested in scientific research to pursue their dreams.