Two USC professors have received honorary degrees from the Université Paris Descartes — more widely known as the Sorbonne — for their pioneering work in psychology.
University Professor Antonio Damasio, holder of the David Dornsife Chair in Neuroscience and professor of psychology and neurology, and University Professor Hanna Damasio, Dana Dornsife Chair in Neuroscience and professor of psychology and neurology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, traveled to Paris to receive the Doctor Honoris Causa degrees at a formal ceremony held at the Sorbonne.
The Damasios, who are married, co-direct the USC Dornsife Brain and Creativity Institute. The honorary degrees were proposed by the Paris university’s faculty of psychology. The academic discipline has been one of the grand scientific traditions at the Sorbonne, where pioneers like Alfred Binet and Jean Piaget helped create and shape the field.
The day before receiving their honorary degrees, the Damasios lectured to the full faculty and the student body of psychology at the Sorbonne on cognitive neuroscience.
The Sorbonne is one of the cradles of psychology.
“The Sorbonne is one of the cradles of psychology,” said Antonio Damasio. “We are honored to be associated with that history.”
Hanna Damasio agreed, paying tribute to the many illustrious female scientists associated with the renowned institution, the most celebrated of whom is physicist Marie Curie, who was twice awarded the Nobel Prize, once for physics and once for chemistry.
“When it comes to women scientists, the Sorbonne is a pioneer,” Hanna Damasio said. “I am pleased to be a part of that tradition.”
Using computed tomography scanning and magnetic resonance imaging, she has developed methods of investigating human brain structure and studied functions such as language, memory and emotion. Her research has employed both the lesion method, which uses lost or damaged parts of the brain to identify correlations between a specific brain area and a behavior, and functional neuroimaging, which uses neuroimaging technology to measure aspects of brain function.
She is the author of Human Brain Anatomy in Computerized Images (Oxford University Press, 1995), the first brain atlas based on computerized imaging data, now in its second edition.
Antonio Damasio received another Gallic honor this summer when the French magazine Sciences Humaines included him in its list of “50 Major Thinkers in the Human Sciences” of the past two centuries, alongside Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Michel Foucault and Claude Lévi-Strauss.