News

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.

In 2016, UC Berkeley engineers demonstrated the first implanted, ultrasonic neural dust sensors, bringing closer the day when a Fitbit-like device could monitor internal nerves, muscles or organs in real time. Now, Berkeley engineers have taken neural dust a step forward by building the smallest volume, most efficient wireless nerve stimulator to date.

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.

Alumnus Ron Hammer ’74 was inspired to pursue his interest and career in neurobiology by Berkeley anatomist Marian Diamond. To mark Diamond’s lasting legacy and inspire future brain scientists, Hammer and his spouse, neuropsychiatrist Sandra Jacobson, have committed a $2 million endowed fund for the Marian C. Diamond and Arnold B. Scheibel Chair in Neuroscience.

A founder of modern neuroscience and professor emerita of integrative biology at Berkeley, Marion Cleeves Diamond died July 25 in Oakland at the age of 90. Diamond gained fame in 1984 by examining preserved sections of Albert Einstein’s brain. Her primary scientific accomplishment came from showing how an enriched environment could enhance the brain’s internal structure, overturning the traditional view of the brain as a static entity that declines with age. A gifted and engaging teacher, Diamond inspired generations of students in her human anatomy courses until she retired in 2014.

Berkeley engineers have built the first dust-sized wireless sensors that can be implanted in the body in order to monitor the real-time activity of nerves, muscles, or organs. These Neural Dust sensors, each the size of a sand grain, use ultrasound to power and read out measurements, so it could potentially be used throughout the body. Ultimately, this technology could improve the brain’s control of external prosthetics or lead to treatments for disorders such as epilepsy.