Connecting the Brain and the Mind

The human brain has the power to imagine and create. It can fuel astonishing achievements or fail from devastating ailments. So much is at stake in discovering how this unique organ lets us experience the world. Leveraging UC Berkeley’s world-leading research excellence across all relevant disciplines, the Berkeley Brain Initiative convenes exceptional minds to spark breakthrough knowledge and to spawn transformative technologies. Our ultimate goal: to unlock the secrets of how the human brain gives rise to the mind.

Breaking News

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced that Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Markita Landry, has been awarded a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship for her work in neuroscience. Dr. Landry is one of a select group of US and Canadian researchers honored for their early-career achievements marking them as the next generation of scientific leaders.

Dr. Landry, and her research team are involved in groundbreaking research to develop a new nanosensor technology and near-infrared imaging platform that will enable non-invasive imaging of neurotransmitter activity in the living brain. The research is specifically looking at the problem of how to test psychiatric and neurological drug efficacy in the brain with infrared light. The goal is to create a microscopic imaging platform that can image neurotransmitters through cranial bone, skin, and tissue. Optical detection of neurotransmitters in the brain of an awake animal will enable direct study of the fundamental underlying mechanisms of behavioral disorders which can accurately validate the neural action of a psychiatric drug.

Featured Breakthrough

Foundations of MRI Technology

Berkeley physicist Erwin Hahn discovered two fundamental phenomena that led to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Berkeley later built the first whole-body MRI scanner, transforming radiology and medical treatment worldwide. Berkeley was also key in developing ultra-low-field MRI, which could permit imaging in a freely moving person.

Featured Scholar

Yang Dan

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Yang Dan employs the latest tools to study how the brain’s circuitry controls transitions from waking to sleeping to dreaming. She has identified the specific neurons in the brain stem and hypothalamus responsible for inducing sleep. This research could lead to treatments for mood disorders related to sleep deprivation. Dan also conducts research on the neural circuits that permit perception of visual stimuli and goal-directed behavior. 

We invite you to connect with the Berkeley Brain Initiative.


UC Berkeley is partnering with the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle on a five-year effort to count, catalog and connect the many different cell types in the mouse brain, as a foundation for doing the same for the human brain. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Allen Institute-led consortium represents an international team of scientists that will construct a comprehensive whole-brain atlas of cell types, essentially a parts list of the mouse brain.

Berkeley was awarded a new $13.43 million BRAIN Initiative grant from the National Institutes of Health to build the next generation of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI by 2019.  The NexGen 7T will provide the highest resolution images of the brain ever obtained, able to focus on a region the size of a poppy seed.  Lead researcher David Feinberg notes, “The much higher resolution imaging will overcome size barriers in imaging the cortex and should lead to new discoveries in the human brain, hopefully with major medical impact.

The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute has selected a multidisciplinary team of Berkeley scientists led by Markita Landry to receive the inaugural research award of the Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge. The winning team, which includes Linda Wilbrecht, Marla Feller, and Jose Carmena, will receive $300,000 in seed funding — made possible through the generosity of Andrea and Peter Roth, P’05 — to develop nanosensors to study how neuromodulators like dopamine affect our mood, attention, and behavior, in diseases such as Autism.