Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience Welcomes Obama’s BRAIN Project
National program creates opportunities to support the Max Planck Florida Institute’s neural circuit research focused on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and other brain disorders
JUPITER, Fla., April 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – The Obama administration formally announced its plan to fund the development of a comprehensive map of the brain’s activity with a project called Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN), starting with an initial investment of $100 million in 2014. The 10-year research project is strongly supported by the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter, Fla. Scientists at the Institute claim this is a prime time to make such a strategic investment.
“In the last five years, we’ve only just cracked open the door to technologies that make the impossible finally possible,” said Dr. David Fitzpatrick, a former Professor of Neurobiology at the Duke University School of Medicine who is now the scientific director and CEO of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience – the first Institute outside of Europe for Germany’s renowned Max Planck Society. “You can’t fix it if you don’t know how it works. If we can’t get to this detailed level of understanding of brain organization and activity, then we’re not going to be in a position to effectively address brain disorders.”
The Max Planck Florida Institute’s nine distinct research groups are currently investigating the many remaining mysteries of the brain. Scientists are focused on neural circuits, the complex synaptic networks of the brain that hold the key to developing effective treatments for a host of neurological and psychiatric disorders and diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, autism and schizophrenia. Dr. Fitzpatrick believes there will be great opportunities for his Institute to support and benefit from the new BRAIN research program.
“Our mission focuses on the development and implementation of new technologies that allow us to visualize the structure, function and development of neural circuits,” he said. “These research efforts are exactly what the BRAIN initiative aims to achieve.”
The Max Planck Florida Institute has been organized with an interdisciplinary strategy in mind. Recruiting scientists with different expertise who approach the problem of understanding neural circuits from different perspectives provides great synergy for fueling the engines of scientific discovery.
One example involves a scientist at the Institute with expertise in virology who is collaborating with Dr. Fitzpatrick’s research group, a combination that leverages skills in imaging technology and molecular biology to observe neural activity in a functioning brain. They are exploring new approaches for making viral agents that can deliver, “molecular probes to monitor and control activity in different types of neurons.”
“It often takes people with very different areas of expertise to make progress,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. “There has never been a time in neuroscience like today. The convergence of technologies that are derived from different disciplines is propelling the field forward. We are convinced that an investment right now, when we are just beginning to see these new technologies and grasp their potential to reveal the brain’s organization, is a very wise one.”
As challenging as the BRAIN project is – the average brain contains about 100 billion neuron cells, or as many cells as there are stars in the Milky Way – the Max Planck Florida Institute is convinced the journey is well worth this new, large-scale research initiative.
“I don’t know how many years it will take, but I think ultimately when a person shows up for medical help in a clinic we’ll be able to do a series of tests that will allow us to diagnose how the balance of activity within their neural circuits has been altered and what needs to be done to bring that imbalance back into a normal range,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick. “The information that will come from the brain mapping project will lay the foundation for making this a reality. And that is our ultimate mission – changing lives for the better.”
About the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience is the first American institute established by Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Society. It brings together top research neuroscientists from around the world to collaborate on unlocking the mysteries of the brain–the most important and least understood organ in the body–by providing new insight into the functional organization of the nervous system, and its capacity to produce perception, thought, language, memory, emotion, and action. The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience meets this challenge by forging links between different levels of analysis–genetic, molecular, cellular, circuit, and behavioral–and developing new technologies that make cutting edge scientific discoveries possible. The results of the research will be shared publicly with scholars, universities and other institutions around the globe to advance life-saving and life-improving treatments and cures for brain disorders ranging from autism, to Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit www.maxplanckflorida.org.
SOURCE Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience