USC Michelson + Brain Initiative: Convergence Ideal

The field of neuroscience is a remarkably attractive and rapidly advancing field, however many underlying details of brain function remain poorly understood. In 2013, a drive to unravel the remaining mysteries of brain activity was launched. Termed the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), it is hoped that this will be the final push in the battle to gain a complete understanding of the human brain.

In commencing the BRAIN Initiative, the Obama administration hoped to provide funding and support for neuroscience groups all over the country, with the ultimate aim of the project being to support the “development and application of innovative technologies that can create a dynamic understanding of brain function.” (1)

Last year it was announced that over 100 investigators are to be funded through the scheme, allowing the creation of various projects covering multiple aspects of the field of neuroscience. (5)

A research group at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have received the necessary funding to develop a unique method of imaging various brain cells in mice, allowing differences between females and males to be analysed, whilst a group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are to work on developing a means of studying the molecular and electrical activity of the brain which is less invasive than current methods. (2, 6, 7)

Researchers at West Virginia University, meanwhile, will work on creating a PET scanner which allows images of brain activity to be obtained whilst the individual being studied is in motion. (2)

Neuroscience groups will clearly reap the most direct benefits of the scheme, however it is hoped that as the initiative progresses research groups in all fields of science will profit.

Brain Initiative | MIT Optogenics: Non Invasive Brain Control (Credit: Jose-Louis Olivares).
Brain Initiative | Mouse Brain Circuit; Fear Control (Credit: CSHL/ Bo Li).
Brain Initiative - Michael Hasselmo, Gloria Waters, Thomas Insel [Boston University]
(Top Left) Optogenetics, a technology that allows scientists to control brain activity by shining light on neurons, relies on light-sensitive proteins that can suppress or stimulate electrical signals within cells. This technique requires a light source to be implanted in the brain, where it can reach the cells to be controlled (Credit: MIT/Jose-Louis Olivares).
(Top Right) A team of researchers at CSHL has discovered a novel circuit in the mouse brain that controls fear. The red cells are neurons identified by a “trans-synaptic tracing technique”, which allows scientists to trace the neuronal circuit between two regions of the brain (shown here, called the PVT and CeL). Disrupting the circuit is enough to dramatically reduce fear, while strengthening the neuronal interactions can trigger an unwarranted fear response. The researchers suggest that this circuit represents an ideal target for new therapies to treat anxiety disorders (Credit: CHSL/Bo Li).
(Bottom) Representatives of Boston University, Dr. Gloria Waters, Dr. Michael Hasselmo and alumni Dr. Thomas Insel, attend a White House sponsored conference on the President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a bold new Grand Challenge focused on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. (Credit: J.M. Eddins Jr.)
Brain Initiative | Mouse Brain Circuit; Fear Control (Credit: CSHL/ Bo Li).

A team of researchers at CSHL has discovered a novel circuit in the mouse brain that controls fear. The red cells are neurons identified by a “trans-synaptic tracing technique”, which allows scientists to trace the neuronal circuit between two regions of the brain (shown here, called the PVT and CeL). Disrupting the circuit is enough to dramatically reduce fear, while strengthening the neuronal interactions can trigger an unwarranted fear response. The researchers suggest that this circuit represents an ideal target for new therapies to treat anxiety disorders (Credit: CHSL/Bo Li).


Brain Initiative - Michael Hasselmo, Gloria Waters, Thomas Insel [Boston University]

Representatives of Boston University, Dr. Gloria Waters, Dr. Michael Hasselmo and alumni Dr. Thomas Insel, attend a White House sponsored conference on the President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a bold new Grand Challenge focused on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. (Credit: J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Brain Initiative | Mouse Brain Circuit; Fear Control (Credit: CSHL/ Bo Li).

A team of researchers at CSHL has discovered a novel circuit in the mouse brain that controls fear. The red cells are neurons identified by a “trans-synaptic tracing technique”, which allows scientists to trace the neuronal circuit between two regions of the brain (shown here, called the PVT and CeL). Disrupting the circuit is enough to dramatically reduce fear, while strengthening the neuronal interactions can trigger an unwarranted fear response. The researchers suggest that this circuit represents an ideal target for new therapies to treat anxiety disorders (Credit: CHSL/Bo Li).


Brain Initiative - Michael Hasselmo, Gloria Waters, Thomas Insel [Boston University]

Representatives of Boston University, Dr. Gloria Waters, Dr. Michael Hasselmo and alumni Dr. Thomas Insel, attend a White House sponsored conference on the President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a bold new Grand Challenge focused on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. (Credit: J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Brain Initiative | Mouse Brain Circuit; Fear Control (Credit: CSHL/ Bo Li).

A team of researchers at CSHL has discovered a novel circuit in the mouse brain that controls fear. The red cells are neurons identified by a “trans-synaptic tracing technique”, which allows scientists to trace the neuronal circuit between two regions of the brain (shown here, called the PVT and CeL). Disrupting the circuit is enough to dramatically reduce fear, while strengthening the neuronal interactions can trigger an unwarranted fear response. The researchers suggest that this circuit represents an ideal target for new therapies to treat anxiety disorders (Credit: CHSL/Bo Li).


Brain Initiative - Michael Hasselmo, Gloria Waters, Thomas Insel [Boston University]

Representatives of Boston University, Dr. Gloria Waters, Dr. Michael Hasselmo and alumni Dr. Thomas Insel, attend a White House sponsored conference on the President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a bold new Grand Challenge focused on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. (Credit: J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Brain Initiative – USC Michelson enters the Field

In line with this perspective, the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience [USC] aims to maximise the benefits of the scheme by promoting the collaboration of neuroscience teams with various other research groups at the University of Souther California.

Scheduled to be opened in 2017, the Center will provide a location for the convergence of various bioscience research groups at USC, promoting the integration and productive collaboration of various scientific fields.

The Center will promote the convergence of multiple fields whilst also emphasising the importance of “goal-orientated” research, encouraging groups to focus on the potential real world benefits of their work. (3)

It is hoped that by supporting and collaborating with neuroscientists at the University, the Center will maximise the positive effects of all research being conducted at USC. (8)

Brain Initiative - Bridge @ USC Michelson: Convergence of The Sciences and Art

Building upon the university’s Convergent Bioscience Initiative, The Bridge @ USC Michelson unites eminent professors across the entire university, including the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, as well as animators and cinematographers in the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and technology transfer experts in the USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

Brain Initiative - Bridge @ USC Michelson: Convergence of The Sciences and Art

Building upon the university’s Convergent Bioscience Initiative, The Bridge @ USC Michelson unites eminent professors across the entire university, including the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, as well as animators and cinematographers in the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and technology transfer experts in the USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

Brain Initiative - Bridge @ USC Michelson: Convergence of The Sciences and Art

Building upon the university’s Convergent Bioscience Initiative, The Bridge @ USC Michelson unites eminent professors across the entire university, including the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, as well as animators and cinematographers in the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and technology transfer experts in the USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

Brain Initiative - Bridge @ USC Michelson: Convergence of The Sciences and Art

Building upon the university’s Convergent Bioscience Initiative, The Bridge @ USC Michelson unites eminent professors across the entire university, including the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, as well as animators and cinematographers in the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and technology transfer experts in the USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

Brain Initiative – BD2K & ENIGMA

Brain Initiative - Arthur Toga, Paul Thompson; USC Mark and Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute

Professors Paul Thompson (L) and Arthur Toga (R) lead the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute and its Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI). They recently received awards of $12 million and $11 million, respectively, to fund the creation of two new centers of excellence at the University (Credit: USC / Gus Ruelas).

Brain Initiative - Arthur Toga, Paul Thompson; USC Mark and Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute

Professors Paul Thompson (L) and Arthur Toga (R) lead the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute and its Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI). They recently received awards of $12 million and $11 million, respectively, to fund the creation of two new centers of excellence at the University (Credit: USC / Gus Ruelas).

Brain Initiative - Arthur Toga, Paul Thompson; USC Mark and Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute

Professors Paul Thompson (L) and Arthur Toga (R) lead the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute and its Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI). They recently received awards of $12 million and $11 million, respectively, to fund the creation of two new centers of excellence at the University (Credit: USC / Gus Ruelas).

Brain Initiative - Arthur Toga, Paul Thompson; USC Mark and Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute

Professors Paul Thompson (L) and Arthur Toga (R) lead the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute and its Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI). They recently received awards of $12 million and $11 million, respectively, to fund the creation of two new centers of excellence at the University (Credit: USC / Gus Ruelas).

USC is currently at the forefront of the field of neuroscience, with neuroscientists Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson recently receiving awards of $12 million and $11 million, respectively, to fund the creation of two new centers of excellence at the University.

The centers will focus on the compilation, processing and analysis of the huge amounts of neuroscientific data currently being produced by research groups around the world.

Toga’s award of $12 million will be used to fund a project termed the “Big Data for Discovery Science Center.” The aim of the center, claim USC, will be to “develop database systems and computational strategies” that will aid scientists’ efforts to “mine complex data about the brain.” (4)

Meanwhile, Thompson will direct the ENIGMA Center for Worldwide Medicine, Imaging and Genomics, which he has claims will be “the largest alliance in the world studying factors that help or harm the brain.” (4)

It is hoped that as long as the BRAIN Initiative promotes neuroscientific research, and institutions like the Michelson Center provide a platform for collaboration and convergence, the scientific community will continue to edge closer to solving the remaining mysteries of the human brain.

Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson on Brain Mapping

Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson on Brain Mapping

Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson on Brain Mapping

Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson on Brain Mapping

MMRF Initiative

References

  1. The White House Brain Initiative: Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Technologies [2014-09-30; whitehouse.gov]
  2. NIH BRAIN Awards, The Brain Initiative [National Institutes of Health]
  3. USC Michelson Center: Research for Humanity’s Sake [2014-10-23; Christopher Edward Jones, Michelson Medical Research Foundation]
  4. Neuroscientists claim rare pair of grants in brain research [2014-10-09; Carl Marziali and Alison Trinidad, USC News]
  5. Boston University Brain Researchers among Those Invited to White House [2014-10-01; Sara Rimer, BU Today]
  6. A new Brain Circuit that controls Fear is identified [2015-01-19; Jaclyn Jansen, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory]
  7. Noninvasive Brain Control: New light-sensitive Protein enables simpler, more powerful Optogenetics. [2014-06-29; Anne Trafton, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT]
  8. Layer By Layer [2015-06-01; Emily Cavalcanti and Lynell George, USC Dornsife]
  9. USC scientists Arthur Toga, Paul Thompson are on the cutting edge of brain mapping [2015-03-25; Suzanne Wu, USC News]
  10. Renowned Scientists lead Cluster hire of new Trojans [2013-05-10; Suzanne Wu, USC News]
  11. Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) [Data Science at NIH]

Related Links

Christopher Edward Jones is a biochemist and writer currently affiliated with Queen Mary University of London, where he is part of a research group focusing on the restriction factors of HIV. In the past he has worked with multiple biomedical research groups in both industry and academia. He has a research interest in the biochemical mechanisms of virus restriction and a general interest in all areas of science.

Christopher Edward Jones is a biochemist and writer currently affiliated with Queen Mary University of London, where he is part of a research group focusing on the restriction factors of HIV. In the past he has worked with multiple biomedical research groups in both industry and academia. He has a research interest in the biochemical mechanisms of virus restriction and a general interest in all areas of science.

Christopher Edward Jones is a biochemist and writer currently affiliated with Queen Mary University of London, where he is part of a research group focusing on the restriction factors of HIV. In the past he has worked with multiple biomedical research groups in both industry and academia. He has a research interest in the biochemical mechanisms of virus restriction and a general interest in all areas of science.

Christopher Edward Jones is a biochemist and writer currently affiliated with Queen Mary University of London, where he is part of a research group focusing on the restriction factors of HIV. In the past he has worked with multiple biomedical research groups in both industry and academia. He has a research interest in the biochemical mechanisms of virus restriction and a general interest in all areas of science.