Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Brain Gain the Pittsburgh Region Is Poised to Benefit from the Federal Brain Initiative, Say

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Brain Gain the Pittsburgh Region Is Poised to Benefit from the Federal Brain Initiative, Say

Article excerpt

This past April, President Barack Obama announced a new research initiative "designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain" and, ultimately, to develop new treatments and cures for brain disorders such as autism and Alzheimer's, as well as psychiatric illnesses and traumatic brain injuries.

Uniquely, this initiative involves not only the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but partnerships with corporations, foundations and private research institutions. With an initial $100 million allocation and the promise of billions in new funding over the coming decade, the BRAIN initiative represents a tremendous opportunity for the Pittsburgh neuroscience community and the Pittsburgh region more generally.

In fact, the neuroscience community in Pittsburgh is vast, highly accomplished and a major contributor to neuroscience training, research and clinical care. For example, neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have a long history of translating basic science observations into innovative solutions to clinical problems.

Pittsburgh is where the gamma knife for minimally invasive brain surgery was first introduced to neurosurgeons in North America, where Pittsburgh Compound B was developed for early detection of Alzheimer's Disease, and where the concept of building artificial intelligences based on human intelligence was first realized. The research expertise within our community is ideally poised to contribute to the president's initiative.

The Pittsburgh neuroscience community is also at the forefront in educating the next generation of neuroscientists. Students at all levels come to Pittsburgh for their training; across the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon over 500 students chose to pursue neuroscience-related majors.

One program is especially noteworthy because of the partnership between the two universities. Over the past two decades Carnegie Mellon and Pitt have jointly fostered one of the premier neuroscience research and training programs in the world, the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. The CNBC will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014.

The center is unique in its emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach to studying the mind and brain. Members of the CNBC span disciplines as diverse as psychology, biomedical engineering, cognitive neuroscience, neurobiology, mathematics, statistics, health neuroscience, machine learning, psychiatry and robotics. In a reflection of Pittsburgh's own character, members of the CNBC are highly collaborative -- they break down disciplinary boundaries and bridge across departments and across universities to create new synergies not found anywhere else. …

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