Allen Donates $300 Million To ‘Brain Observatory’

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated $300 million in order to create a center that will study the brain and learn more about exactly how the human mind works, the Allen Institute for Brain Science announced Wednesday.

The latest donation brings the amount of money that the 59-year-old businessman, investor and philanthropist has invested in the institute which was named in his honor to $500 million, Forbes staff writer Matthew Herper said.

According to Herper and the Wall Street Journal‘s Robert Hotz, the additional money will allow for the funding of additional projects and will double the number of scientists and technicians to more than 350 people.

The Allen Institute announced his contribution during a press conference in Seattle on March 21, during which Allen said that the goal of the Institute’s research is “to one day understand the essence of what makes us human,” Herper said in his March 21 article.

“I´ve always been fascinated by the workings of the human brain. I´m awed by its enormous complexity,” he added in comments published by Forbes. “Our brains are many magnitudes more advanced in the way they work than any computer software ever invented. Think about this: We can teach students to program computers in a couple of years of school. But even with a lifetime of learning, at present we are far away from fully understanding the brain“¦ Thus, we have only begun to scratch the surface of the complex problems inherent in figuring out the deep, detailed knowledge of the brain´s inner workings.”

KPLU-FM out of Seattle said that the Institute is dedicated to “unraveling mysteries of the brain” and “bringing some of America’s top scientists” to the facility, which they note has been called “a brain observatory” at which researchers “hope to answer big questions about how the mind works“¦ They’ll peer inside the brain, similar to how groups of astronomers gather at major observatories to peer into the stars for answers about the formation of the universe.”

The radio station added that the project itself has been inspired by the type of research conducted by physicists, in which a team of dozens of scientists collaborate in order to answer core questions of their subject. At the Allen Institute, KPLU-FM reports, the staff will attempt to determine exactly how the brain works on the cellular and molecular level, including the mechanics between sight, decision-making, and action-taking. The Microsoft co-founder’s funding has reportedly given them enough capital to complete four years’ worth of research.

Among the projects completed by researchers at the facility since it was founded by Allen in 2003 are an online, computerized atlas which brings together a variety of different imaging techniques to document the structure of the human brain, as well as genetic and biochemical data, all of which are analyzed using state-of-the-art technology, Hotz reported. More than 4,000 scientists are already using the tool, he added.

With Allen’s latest donation, researchers at the facility will now attempt to determine who the brain stores, encodes and processes information; discover the cellular building blocks involved in all brain function, as well as how and why they are sometimes targeted by diseases; and how to cells develop and then collaborate in order to create the systems behind a person’s thoughts and behaviors, the Institute said in a press release.

“Paul Allen’s generosity and bold vision have allowed us to build a unique organization and advance brain research in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” Allen Institute CEO Dr. Allan Jones said in a statement Wednesday. “This new funding enables us to apply our structured, industrial-scale approach to science to tackle increasingly complex questions about how the brain works — questions that must be answered if we are to understand and treat autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, traumatic brain injury and the myriad other brain-related diseases and disorders that affect all of us either directly or indirectly.”

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