Institute for Mind and Brain launches
By Peggy Binette, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-7704
From brain to mind: New institute to explore the neural underpinnings of humanity
The University of South Carolina is poised to become a world leader in human cognitive neuroscience research with the consolidation of faculty and research in a newly established Institute for Mind and Brain.
Neuroscience has the potential to unlock some of the most complex processes of the human brain and improve the health and well-being of people.
“Understanding how the brain gives rise to the human mind is one of the greatest remaining scientific challenges of the 21st-century,” says John Henderson, director of the institute. “Dean Mary Anne Fitzpatrick and the University of South Carolina have shown great vision by building cutting-edge infrastructure and recruiting internationally renowned scientists whose research is directed toward unraveling this mystery.”
The institute pulls together 18 faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Arnold School of Public Health who will collaborate on research to understand higher functions of the brain, including attention, perception, language and communication, memory and motor control.
Henderson, a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor, says the research has important implications for treating impairment resulting from stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia, cognitive impairment, developmental disorders and aging.
Working collaboratively through the institute, faculty expect to generate considerable grant proposals and funding, building on an already impressive record of external research funding that totals more than $26 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD).
Ted Gibson, a cognitive science researcher at MIT whose work is in the forefront of understanding how people learn, represent and process language, says the institute will place USC alongside other top universities in cognitive neuroscience research.
“An interdisciplinary approach - bringing together cognitive scientists, computer scientists and neuroscientists - is essential for making progress in understanding the human mind and brain,” says Gibson, the director of the Language Lab in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
“Only a handful of centers around the world truly integrate these different approaches. USC's establishment of the new institute with its world-class group of researchers will strongly contribute to moving our field forward, and I look forward to many great discoveries coming out of USC in the coming years.”
Keith Rayner, a pioneer internationally in the study of eye movements and reading at the University of California, San Diego, agrees.
"The Institute for Mind and Brain is a very important development for the growth of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of South Carolina. The excellent facilities in place, with others to appear soon, should place the university among the world's top universities in Cognitive Neuroscience research," Rayner says.
Similar centers and institutes include MIT’s as well as the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University and the Cognitive and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University.
USC has built strength in neuroscience in recent years with a number of significant faculty hires. Among them is Christopher Rorden, SmartState Chair of Neuroimaging Research who studies the behavioral difficulties that people with brain injuries experience, and Julius Fridriksson, a Health Sciences Distinguished Professor in the Arnold School’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders who is one of the world's leading researchers on stroke and aphasia.
Joining them this fall is five new faculty researchers who include Rutvik Desai, an associate professor in psychology who combines a background in computing engineering with cognitive science to study how the meaning of language is represented in the brains of people who have suffered a stroke or Parkinson’s Disease.
The Institute for Mind and Brain will move early December into 1800 Gervais Street, an iconic 1960s style building at the corner of Gervais and Barnwell streets on the edge of campus. Faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Arnold School of Public Health will continue to conduct MRI and functional MRI (fMRI) research at USC’s McCausland Center for Brain Imaging, which is located at Palmetto Health Richland.
Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says the Institute for Mind and Brain will be catalyst for scientific advancement and a magnet for attracting doctoral student and faculty talent.
“The original gift from Peter and Bonnie McCausland for the McCausland Center for Brain Imaging has had a tremendous multiplier effect. Their generosity allowed us to recruit this stellar group of faculty and open the institute,” Fitzpatrick says.
In addition to administrative offices and meeting spaces, core laboratories will be located in the Institute for Mind and Brain.
These labs include ones for eyetracking, EEG (electroencephalogram) for measuring electrical activity in the brain and techniques for isolating activity in the brain called TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and the more targeted form called tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation).
Labs for analyzing data also will be centrally located at the institute, eliminating the duplication of labs for neuroscience data analysis on campus and enhancing interaction among psychology and public health researchers, doctoral students and undergraduates.
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