Larry Lee Butcher, Ph.D. Born: February 21, 1940. Died: January 11, 2013 at age 72.
Larry Butcher taught thousands of students as Professor of Neuroscience at UCLA during his 40-year career in the Department of Psychology, UCLA Neuroscience Program, and Brain Research Institute. His passion for teaching was only exceeded by his dedication to scientific research and his love and devotion to his family. Larry is survived by his wife (and co-investigator) Nancy Woolf (age 58), son Lawson Butcher (age 25), and daughter Ashley Butcher (age 24). Larry's sister, Darlene Frederick and brother, James Butcher also survive him.
Larry Butcher's many scientific accomplishments include pioneering methods to visualize the neurochemical anatomy of the brain-techniques that enabled scientists to trace the pathways throughout the brain that release specific neurotransmitters. Larry was keenly interested not only in how neurotransmitters empower neurons with the means to communicate with other neurons, he was among the cohort of earliest researchers who began to investigate how these small molecules mediate behavior. He started his career with an intense interest in dopamine and how this molecule could influence behavior. A two-year position as a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Pharmacology in Goteborg, Sweden proved to be a life-altering experience that Larry talked about fondly his entire life. After taking a faculty position at UCLA, Larry became increasingly interested in the interaction between the monoamine neurotransmitters (like dopamine) and acetylcholine, about which he wrote numerous articles and an edited book.
At the height of his career Larry created the Laboratory of Chemical Neuroanatomy where he, the many talented members of his research team, and distinguished visiting scientists made a number of significant discoveries. His group led in the comprehensive mapping of the cholinergic system-a network of interconnected neurons pivotal to all aspects of higher cognition-thinking, remembering, perceiving, and being conscious. The team also made significant contributions to neurology-elaborating on how cholinergic neurons degenerate in Alzheimer's disease, showing how cholinergic neuronal degeneration relates to senile plaque and neurofibrillary tangle formation and to programmed cell death. Through careful study of the neurobiological underpinnings of mental dysfunction arose clues about general mechanisms of higher mental function. Larry's group advanced several comprehensive hypotheses explaining how something as simple and concrete as neuropharmacology (i.e., the binding of acetylcholine to its receptor located on the neuron's surface) unleashes the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious, by triggering dynamic and "plastic" changes within the neuron. Several members of Larry's lab went on to make major contributions in neurochemistry, neuroplasticity, and neurogenesis-furthering our basic understanding of brain mechanisms responsible for behavior and higher cognition.
Later in his career, Larry became interested in aging from a social biological perspective. He initiated the Gerontology Minor Program at UCLA and served as its director for many years, devoting significant time to that program up until his recent retirement (see YouTube video: UCLA Dr. Larry Butcher on Gerontology - TheYouthMovement.org).
Besides teaching, conducting research, and serving a number of university administrative roles, Larry was an avid softball player. It was perhaps what he enjoyed most when not at work or with his family.
Northwest Mortuary, Las Vegas, NV.