Tuesday, February 11, 2014
University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today the establishment of a new brain science research unit that will bring together faculty from multiple disciplines to probe the inner workings of the brain and to develop therapies for a wide range of neurological disorders.
The new Brain Science Research Consortium Unit (RCU) will conduct large-scale, multidisciplinary studies on brain function (and dysfunction). Physician-scientists, laboratory scientists and other translational and clinical investigators across the university will collaborate in this important undertaking.
“Tackling an area of research with as much intricacies as brain science requires significant collaboration from investigators across many disciplines because no single person will have all the answers,” said Dean E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers distinguished professor and dean of the School of Medicine. “The School of Medicine’s Brain Science RCU breaks through the traditional silos, where basic research is separated from clinical work, and brings together a team of experts from multiple fields to understand the body’s most important organ. We anticipate unprecedented discoveries that will measurably and dramatically impact the area of brain research.”
The Brain Science RCU will set out to answer challenges presented by the NIH BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, also referred to as the Brain Activity Map Project), a national research program announced by President Obama last year. The program was established to revolutionize how we understand the human brain and mind, and to find new ways to identify and treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, stroke, and brain injury.
University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers will be well poised to align their expertise with the BRAIN Initiative’s goals, forming interdisciplinary groups to form large research projects on:
The School of Medicine’s Brain Science RCU will be led by Bankole A. Johnson, DSc, MD, MB, ChB, MPhil, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science. His primary area of research expertise is the psychopharmacology of medications for treating addictions, and he is the author of more than 200 research publications. He is the principal investigator on National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded studies utilizing neuroimaging, neuropharmacology, and molecular genetics techniques. Professor Johnson is a neuroscientist and neuropsychopharmacologist whose work spans basic, translational and the clinical sciences, including the use of molecular genetics and neuroimaging to develop medicines for the treatment of addictions.
Professor Johnson will lead a steering committee of School of Medicine faculty, which will determine research areas for the Brain Science RCU to follow, and develop multidisciplinary centers of excellence to submit research grants, conduct large-scale studies and make joint discoveries in how the brain works and what causes brain disorders. The Brain Science RCU will bolster research ties with other parts of the School of Medicine and University, including the departments of neurology, neurosurgery, neurobiology, and psychiatry, the SOM Center for Shock Trauma and Anesthesiology Research (STAR), the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC), and the University of Maryland Medical System.
“The human brain is arguably the most complex entity in the universe that we know of,” said Professor Johnson. “We do not understand all that the brain is capable of, nor how everything functions. The Brain Science RCU will allow us to develop revolutionary techniques, methods and knowledge to help our understanding of brain function that only a large, interdisciplinary enterprise can do.” The Brain Research RCU is one of a number of RCUs the School of Medicine will establish to explore “Big Science” questions in a number of areas including heart and vascular science; cancer biology, transplantation, etc. These RCU’s will complement the SOM’s robust research enterprise that includes 25 departments and 20 centers, institutes and programs.