Cognitive Neuroscience May Hold the Key to Combating Overeating and Obesity

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The Wales Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience was officially launched last week. Donna Pierz-Fennell explains how the institute will benefit both patients and Wales' growing reputation for cutting-edge research WALES is not only a place of fabulous scenery and vibrant culture - it is also becoming increasingly known as an incubator for world-class brain research. Although the country may be small in size, its universities have developed three of the top psychology departments in Europe, which are home to more than 250 academics and researchers and have brought in approximately pounds 11m in grants in the last three years.

To further capitalise on these strengths, the Welsh Assembly Government recently decided to invest more than pounds 5m to establish the new multi-centre Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (WICN).

This institute draws together the three psychology faculties of Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities with the intent to build upon and bridge the three universities' high quality academic environments and develop a world-leading institute for the study and application of cognitive and clinical neuroscience.

The Welsh Assembly Government's investment is intended to bring together cognitive neuroscience research groups in Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea in a form that will facilitate long-term all-Wales collaborations.

This is being promoted through a shared management structure, administrative support, additional academic appointments and equipment and technical acquisition that will create an institute with a research environment in cognitive neuroscience that is unique to Wales.

Now united through this common goal, the three partners can grow as one institute, to become a world leader in the study and application of cognitive and clinical neuroscience.

In the first year alone, WICN has been the catalyst for the recruitment of more than a dozen world-class researchers and the development of dozens of new cross-institute collaborative research projects and several conferences.

Over the coming years it is intended that WICN will reconfigure the neuroscience research groups in Wales to develop sustainable research collaborations and establish a cross-university graduate school.

WICN will engage the public more broadly through numerous public seminar series, school presentations, and outreach programmes for schoolchildren and young adults in Wales, with the goal of explaining the significance and potential of studying the brain and providing guidance about how this can lead to career opportunities in this vital area.

The institute will also continue to grow and to deepen the universities' range of partnerships with industry, healthcare, schools and the public.

The dynamic area of cognitive neuroscience research is changing the understanding of normal and damaged brain function in multiple ways, as well as aiding in the treatment of brain impairments such as head injury, stroke, dementia and schizophrenia.

From its origins as a discipline - it was created through the interactions of cognitive science, neuroimaging, and clinical neuroscience - cognitive neuroscience is now the dominant approach in the best psychology departments and neuroscience institutes in both North America and Britain.

Examples of collaborative research that has been furthered by this unique and powerful funding opportunity are demonstrated in areas as topical as substance abuse and overeating. …