Federal Gov. Gifts $9 Million to UCSD Brain Research

On Oct. 15, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act announced intentions to provide an $8,950,590 grant to UCSD researchers studying juvenile brain development. The research will aim to uncover biological reasons for differences in human behavior.

The study will be conducted at 10 sites across the nation and is expected to employ about 25 researchers.

“This very significant award — one of the largest single ARRA awards that UC San Diego has received to date — recognizes the vital, life-saving research being conducted at the Center for Human Development, an interdisciplinary Organized Research Unit, and makes possible swift advances in the pediatric brain-imaging and genomics projects so important to families in California and across America,” Vice Chancellor of Research Arthur B. Ellis said in a statement.

Faculty from at least seven UCSD departments will participate in the project. Cognitive science and radiology and neuroscience professors Terry Jernigan and Anders Dale will serve as the project’s leaders.

The grant was awarded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. The study — called Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition and Genetics (PING) — is one of NIDA’s signature projects, intended to eradicate tobacco abuse and addiction by understanding how genes influence the development and morphology of the human brain.

Jernigan said the grant will be crucial to pediatric advances.

“One might say that PING is a study of the genetic and neural factors that contribute to individuality,” she said in a statement. “Understanding why we have different personalities and mental qualities is critically important for solving many problems that affect children.”

The Multimodal Imaging Laboratory — a campus laboratory that specializes in the use of imaging, recording and computational techniques to study healthy brain function and the diseases that disrupt it — will host the project’s advanced neuro-imaging work.

“Our major aim is to create a database — essentially, a map depicting the genomic landscape of the developing human brain — as a resource for the scientific community,” Dale said in a statement.

On Feb. 17, President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act’s main goals are to protect and create jobs, spur and invest in long-term economic growth and foster accountability and transparency in government spending. The federal government has allotted $199,349,197,034 to grants since then.

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