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Director's Message

"The Brain Research Institute is a catalyst for collaborations among scientists, engineers and clinicians who study brain function and health."

The discipline of neuroscience has grown exponentially in the last 30 years by attracting scientists from a wide variety of basic science and clinical disciplines, from cognitive psychology and psychiatry to molecular biology and engineering. Understanding the brain is the greatest frontier in modern life science and medicine. The scientific study of the brain borders the humanities because the brain makes us what we are. The complexity of the brain beckons those interested in tough, important problems. UCLA has invested heavily in the field of neuroscience, establishing the Brain Research Institute in the early 1960s. No fewer than 26 different departments at UCLA have found neuroscience to be so important to their mission that they have hired neuroscientists as faculty. UCLA can now boast neuroscience research and educational programs that are among the top 10 in the world in terms of breadth and quality.

The large size of the UCLA neuroscience community and the diversity of approaches mean that it is impossible for individual departments to take responsibility for stewardship of the discipline of neuroscience at UCLA. The BRI, as the central administrative and intellectual unit, is needed to provide a functional and symbolic center for neuroscience activities on campus. The role is functional in the sense that the BRI fosters interdepartmental cooperation in research and education, and provides services to the neuroscience community as a whole. The role is symbolic because without a central unit the discipline would be seen as fragmented. The symbolism of a unitary neuroscience organization is important in attracting faculty, students and funding to UCLA.

Non-departmental units such as ORUs can represent agents for faster change, creating or disbanding interdepartmental research and educational affinity groups as the need arises. The large size of a discipline like neuroscience creates the need for a unifying influence. The BRI is a coherent and cohesive force that takes advantage of opportunities for cooperation among and between departments.

It is very apparent that the BRI plays a critical role on campus. It is the only organized unit that effectively unites the highly diverse UCLA neuroscience community by initiating and fostering interdepartmental cooperation in research and education. The BRI has reached new levels of success and is essential to the continued and increasing excellence of UCLA neuroscience, now and in the future.

Mission Statement

The BRI’s mission is

  • to increase understanding of how the brain works, how it develops, and how it responds to experience, injury and disease;
  • to help make UCLA the preeminent center for translating basic knowledge into medical interventions and new technologies; and
  • to promote neuroscience education at all levels.

To execute this mission, the BRI functions explicitly as the interdisciplinary and non-departmental voice of the basic neuroscience community. The BRI’s strategic goals are:

  • to invigorate research programs and to nurture novel collaborations that bring together investigators from complementary fields;
  • to stimulate the translation of basic knowledge into therapies and cures for diseases and injuries of the nervous system;
  • to recruit outstanding faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students;
  • to strengthen existing educational programs by fostering the integration of insights from basic neuroscience, cell and molecular biology, cognitive science, engineering and clinical neuroscience; and
  • to extend educational outreach programs about the brain into the community.

The BRI’s goal is for UCLA to become the preeminent center of excellence for neuroscience research and education and for the “translation” of research into clinical and technological applications. In the coming years, its efforts will focus on four areas of neuroscience: (1) learning, memory, and plasticity; (2) neural repair; (3) neuroengineering; and (4) neurogenetics. UCLA’s strength in these areas comes from multidisciplinary efforts to understand the nervous system at multiple levels with diverse technologies. These efforts depend on the close cooperation of all neuroscience units on campus.

Snapshot of BRI Activities

The BRI has a rich past serving as an umbrella institute for neuroscience activities at UCLA. The Institute began its life in 1959 and has three major goals related to maintaining excellence in neuroscience education, research and outreach programs (specific functions can be found on the following page). The Institute has nearly 300 academic senate faculty members from 26 different departments throughout the UCLA community and includes members from the David Geffen School of Medicine, the College of Letters and Science, the School of Public Heath, The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing, and the School of Dentistry. To execute the mission, the BRI functions explicitly as the interdisciplinary and non-departmental voice of the neuroscience community.

Research:
The BRI provides multiple mechanisms to invigorate research programs and nurture novel collaborations to bring together investigators from complementary fields. Such mechanisms include:

  • Organizational and fiscal support for a weekly neuroscience seminar series, meetings, program project and center grants, affinity groups, and departmental and BRI symposia. 
  • Facilitation of research technologies by support of three cores covering microscopic techniques, confocal microscopy and electron microscopy.
  • Faculty recruitment: The BRI participates in and supports faculty recruitment through BRI endowment funds and endowed Chairs, working collaboratively with departments. The BRI also helps organize and staff various search committees, and participates in space planning.
  • Oversight of the first three floors of the Gonda building (approximately 20,000 square feet of premium laboratory space). 
  • Organization of an Annual Neuroscience Poster Session on the heels of the SFN meeting to enhance intra-UCLA collaborations. The session usually has close to 200 posters and includes a lecture from a prominent neuroscientist.
  • The recent creation of several term chairs to enhance targeted areas of research that are cutting edge and generative for the community.
  • Communication of neuroscience-relevant information to the community.

Education:
The BRI is home to The Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience (Neuroscience Graduate IDP) – the largest neuroscience graduate program at UCLA (http://www.neuroscience.ucla.edu). The goal of this program is to train students to be conversant in all levels of analysis used in neuroscience, from the molecular and cellular to the system levels, while specializing in their chosen field of research. Currently, the Neuroscience Graduate IDP comprises 95 doctoral students. On average, 15 new students enter the program every year. The BRI is also the administrative home for the undergraduate Neuroscience Program, encompassing approximately 380 Neuroscience majors, and for several postdoctoral and translational (K12 and K30) training programs – thereby co-coordinating a large proportion of neuroscience educational programs on campus. 

Outreach:
The BRI aims to extend scientific knowledge into the community and into elementary and secondary schools. We have a very active student program for local schools where UCLA students present at the schools or host students at the BRI. We also place high school students in BRI laboratories for hands-on research experience. In addition, the BRI supports community-based neuroscience seminars and symposia. This area of the BRI is targeted for expansion in future years. 

Snapshot Examples:

Research:

Multi-Investigator Research Grants submitted and administered through the BRI:

  • Laboratory of Neuromuscular Plasticity;
  • Plasticity of GABA Receptors;
  • Gene-Environment Studies in Parkinson’s Disease; 
  • Udall Center of Excellence for the Study of Parkinson’s Disease.

Core Facilities:

  • Carol Moss Spivak Cell Imaging Core;
  • Microscopic Techniques Core;
  • Electron Microscopy Core.

Joint Seminars in Neuroscience: ~28 guest lectures/year weekly.

Additional Neuroscience Lectures: ~20 special lectures/year.

Affinity Group Programs:
20 Affinity Groups & Associated Activities—meetings, seminars and conferences:

  • Addiction;
  • Alzheimer’s Disease;
  • Astrocyte Biology;
  • Autism;
  • Higher Cognitive Function;
  • Immunology in Neuroscience;
  • Inner Ear;
  • Learning, Memory, and Plasticity;
  • Neural Repair;
  • Neural Stem Cells;
  • Neurobiology of Drosophila/C-Elegans;
  • Neuroendocrinology;
  • Neuroengineering;
  • Neurogenetics;
  • Neuroscience History;
  • Parkinson’s;
  • Songbird Research;
  • Stress, Pain and Emotion;
  • Synapse to Circuit Club; and
  • Zebrafish

Symposia, Conferences, and Workshops
Samples include: Learning and Memory; Neural Control of Behavior; Center for Neurobiology of Stress; GABA-Mediated Inhibition in Normal Brain Function and Disease; Survival Skills in Science (2-day workshop); Autism Complex Trait Mini-Symposium; Cell Imaging and Specialized Microscopy Workshops; Technology Transfer Networking Forum.

Annual Poster Sessions: 
UCLA Neuroscience Poster Day and Distinguished Lecture;
Undergraduate Neuroscience Poster Session.

Calendars/ Newsletters/Reports/Website:
Annual BRI Calendar,
Bi-Weekly Neuroscience Calendar;
BRI Annual Report,
Quarterly Neuroscience Newsletter;
BRI website.

BRI Space and Recruitment: 
Programmatic space allocation and faculty recruitment for the Gonda building Neuroscience floors.

Neuroscience History Archives.

Education:

Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience
Recruitment, admissions, curriculum, ARCS fellowship program coordination, course development, course assessment, course coordination, TA selection, student evaluation, student advising, student financial aid, mentor evaluation, faculty membership, website, publications, Annual Neuroscience Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program and NeuroEngineering Program Retreat, graduation, BRI endowment funding for first year students.

Undergraduate Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program
Oversight of staffing for Undergraduate Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program, IT support, and financial support for selected activities.

Neuroscience Training Grants submitted and administered through the BRI: 
Cellular Neurobiology
Interdepartmental Clinical Pharmacology (K12/T32)
Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology
Neural Repair
Neuroendocrinology, Sex Differences and Reproduction
Translational Investigation (K30)

Outreach:

Project Brainstorm, Interaxon Science Outreach Program and Brain Awareness Week
Graduate and Undergraduate Neuroscience Student Coordinated K-12 Outreach Programs, BRI Demonstrations and Tours.

BRI High School Research Placement Program
Placement of high school students in BRI laboratories.

BRI Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP)
This new program is a component of the Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology Training Grant and is scheduled to begin summer 2009.

General:

BRI Awards
Annual Eiduson Lecture Prize (pre doctoral award);
Mary Eva Kavan Prize for Excellence in Brain Research (pre doctoral award);
Travel Awards to the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (pre and post doctoral awards);
Fine Science Tools Postdoctoral Awards;
BRI Postdoctoral Lecture Award.

Coordination of UCLA Chapter for the Society for Neuroscience activities.
Endowments and Fundraising. 

The BRI channels funds from donors to faculty for research, teaching and administration. The BRI provides program support via an endowed Chair, three term chairs, two administrative chairs, scholarships, general endowment funds, and several funds for specific research areas.

 
 

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