UCSD Creates Brain Mapping Center


UCSD established the Center for Brain Activity Mapping on May 16, in response to President Obama’s “grand challenge” Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative announced in April.

CBAM founding director and associate director of the UCSD Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind Ralph Greenspan spearheaded the creation, as one of the architects of the proposal that led to the BRAIN Initiative.

The center will focus on developing the new technologies needed for brain mapping at the cellular level with a timescale of a millisecond, allowing scientists to better understand brain disorders such as traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s that could lead to new treatments.

Greenspan wrote the proposal with Nick Spitzer, professor of neurobiology and director of the Kavli Institute, and Terry Sejnowski, director of UCSD’s Institute for Neural Computation. Chancellor Pradeep Khosla also attended Obama’s unveiling of the BRAIN Initiative at the White House on April 2, strongly supporting UCSD’s role with CBAM.

“We have strengths here on our campus and the Torrey Pines Mesa, both in breadth of talent and in the scientific openness to collaborate across disciplines, that few others can offer the project,” Khosla said in a press release.

The center will work with UCSD researchers across multiple disciplines including neuroscience and engineering as well as with other San Diego research institutions.

“An essential component of the center will be its close relationships with other San Diego research institutions and with industrial partners in the region’s hi-tech and biotech clusters,” Spitzer said in a press release.

CBAM seeks to not only support existing research projects but also support novel ones born from the collaboration that the center will prioritize and encourage.

Greenspan and his colleagues stated that the first goal was to ensure that the center could effectively compete for federal BRAIN initiative funding, which provides approximately $100 million to advance the science and technologies needed to fully map and decipher brain activity. The next step would be to ensure support for specific projects with seed grants, establishing strong relationships with scientists of different disciplines. They are also looking to establish a dedicated space on campus to accomplish these goals.

“We have the capability and the atmosphere here to make some major advances on the BRAIN Initiative,” Greenspan said in a UCSD News Center release. “We are among the best positioned places anywhere to make a significant contribution to the president’s challenge.”