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.
Two Berkeley neuroscience faculty members— Yang Dan, a professor of molecular and cell biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Ehud Isacoff, a professor of molecular and cell biology and director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the Berkeley Brain Initiative—were among the five new UC Berkeley researchers added as members of the National Academy of Sciences.
Berkeley anatomist Marian Diamond showed that early life experiences enhanced by environmental enrichment led to physical changes in the brain — such as a thicker cortex, higher ratio of glial cells to neurons, and denser networks of dendrites. Higher cognitive function seems to benefit from social and other stimulation, and pursuing mental challenges strengthens the immune system.
Jose Carmena investigates how and where in the human brain new motor skills are learned. As co-director of the UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses (CNEP), Carmena leads the development of brain-machine interface (BMI) systems for applications in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Carmena is also co-inventor of Neural Dust, a technology that uses ultrasound to communicate with microscopic devices implanted in the body.
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.