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Brown Institute for Brain Science marks decade of research impact

departments ranging from computer science to neurosurgery for interdisciplinary research on the mind and brain, neurotechnology, and medical applications. Increasingly the institute will also support efforts to create "smart technologies" that employ computation modeled on how the brain works, Donoghue said.

Mental milestones

The brain-computer interface system developed by Donoghue and his colleagues, including Michael Black, professor of computer science; Leigh Hochberg, associate professor of engineering; Arto Nurmikko, professor of engineering; and numerous undergraduate and graduate students, debuted publicly in a 2006 paper in Nature. Building on many years of basic neuroscience and engineering research, the team showed how people with paralysis could control a cursor on a computer screen via an array of electrodes implanted in the brain. A second clinical trial began last year.

Many other institute researchers work on understanding how we see as part of the Institute's Center for Vision Research. A team led by neuroscientist David Berson discovered in 2002 that in addition to rods and cones, the retina houses another type of cell that can respond to light, called intrinsically photo-sensitive retinal ganglion cells. Within three years, they had teased out evidence that these cells set the body's circadian clock by detecting whether it is light or dark.

Other researchers at the institute contributed to knowledge about how the brain adapts to learn and remember. In 1982, physicist Leon Cooper (a Nobel Laureate for work in superconductivity) and colleagues developed a theory of synaptic plasticity the ability to strengthen or weaken the connections between brain cells and its role as the basis for learning and memory. Since then, several institute researchers, including Cooper, have continued to advance the field. For instance, Julie Kauer, professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology, has found

Contact: David Orenstein
Brown University

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