Professor Attends White House Event for Brain Science Research
Dr. Michael Kilgard
When the White House recently unveiled more than $300 million in public and private investments to support research in brain science, UT Dallas’ Dr. Michael Kilgard was in attendance as one of a handful of invited scientists.
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was announced last year by President Barack Obama as a call-to-arms challenge to the research community. The goal of the initiative is to improve understanding by creating real-time pictures of the cells in the brain interacting individually and in complex networks.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 billion people worldwide have a serious neurological or psychiatric disorder. Kilgard said that although doctors can do a great job with diagnosing neurological disorders, they are fairly limited when it comes to treatments or cures.
“That’s no longer the case for many forms of infectious disease and even many forms of cancer,” said Kilgard, the associate director of the Texas Biomedical Device Center and Margaret Fonde Jonsson Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “Why? Because we’ve put 50 years of research into those diseases. We’re now starting on a similar path with the brain, and the first step is developing the tools we need to have access to the precise circuitry in the brain.”
To accomplish this ambitious goal, a national advisory committee recommended providing $4.5 billion in research funding over the next 12 years. Moving toward this aim, the more than $300 million pledged in support of the initiative comes from five government agencies and several foundations, universities, public advocacy organizations and industry partners. The National Institutes of Health awarded its first $46 million in grants for the BRAIN Initiative on Sept. 30.
“UT Dallas is at the forefront in developing advanced neurotechnologies that diagnose conditions and deliver new treatments in ways that were never before possible.”
“The human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe. We’ve only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works — or, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work when disorders and disease occur,” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said in a news release. “There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible. These initial awards are part of a 12-year scientific plan focused on developing the tools and technologies needed to make the next leap in understanding the brain. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey and we’re excited about the possibilities.”
Kilgard was invited to the Sept. 30 event as a representative of the UT Dallas Texas Biomedical Device Center. Kilgard said the center’s ability to bring engineers, scientists and clinicians together to quickly move basic science to effective treatments is a key to its success.
“I was invited because the center has successfully translated animal experiments to human studies multiple times in multiple sites in multiple countries, and only in a three-year period,” Kilgard said. “The White House is interested in accelerating the rate of delivery. They’re aware the patients are impatient, and our track record of collaborating with engineers and physicians allows us to move more quickly out of the lab and into the clinic.”
In addition to the Texas Biomedical Device Center, UT Dallas is stepping up to the challenge of the BRAIN Initiative with brain-related research in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as the Center for BrainHealth, the Center for Vital Longevity and the Department of Bioengineering. UT Dallas faculty contribute to a wide study a range of topics, including tinnitus, anxiety disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, pain disorders, traumatic brain injuries and drug abuse.
“UT Dallas is at the forefront in developing advanced neurotechnologies that diagnose conditions and deliver new treatments in ways that were never before possible,” Kilgard said.
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