Johns Hopkins Medicine has recently launched the Brain
Science Institute, a unique interdisciplinary endeavor that
its leaders feel will help transform the field of
The institute will forge collaborations among those in
direct brain-based research, who will work alongside
geneticists, engineers and imaging experts. Its faculty
will be drawn from basic and clinical
neuroscience departments at the
School of Medicine, other SoM departments and those in
the schools of Arts and
An anonymous family has provided resources to fund the
institute's initial research.
John "Jack" Griffin, who formerly led the Department of
Neurology, has been named the institute's director, and
Richard Huganir, director of the Solomon H. Snyder
Department of Neuroscience, will serve as associate
director. An advisory group consisting of members from 14
departments, including the core departments of
Neuroscience, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and
Psychological and Brain Sciences, will help guide the
Griffin predicts great advances in the understanding
of the brain and the nervous system in the near future and
that, with this institute, Johns Hopkins will be on the
frontline of innovation and discovery.
"We feel this institute will have a real impact on the
study of the brain and its functioning during the next
several decades," Griffin said. "We are very excited about
this new endeavor. This will change how brain science is
done here and, we feel, become a model for other
The institute's faculty will address fundamental
questions in neuroscience, as well as immediate needs in
the treatment of neurological and psychiatric diseases.
Specifically, their research will help unlock such
mysteries as how the brain develops and how to treat
— and hopefully one day, prevent — human
cognitive disorders and neurological diseases, such as
Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, bipolar disorder,
autism and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).
To foster the translation of discovery into therapies,
the institute will explore novel partnerships with
industry, foundations and other institutions.
Huganir said that the study of the brain is the new
frontier in biology.
"We know the fundamentals: how neurons and synapses
work. But the brain is incredibly complex, and we have a
long way to go in terms of our understanding," he said.
"For example, how does the brain recognize another face or
complex objects? Something as basic as that is a huge black
box for us to find and unlock."
In handicapping the success of the institute, Griffin
said that Johns Hopkins has a huge advantage in that it
already has hundreds of "outstanding, world-class" senior
and junior faculty focused on the research and treatment of
brain disorders. The institute will bring these people and
resources together for maximum impact, he said, and also
allow Johns Hopkins to recruit new talented investigators
and centralize core technology and funding
In its first two years, the BSI intends to create the
Center for Neurogenetics, which will establish core
research platforms and support novel interdisciplinary
research teams; and the Center for Cognition, Behavior and
Brain Imaging, which will support interdisciplinary
research teams in new ways, including imaging brain
The institute will also develop a series of symposia,
small and large, to serve as an educational component. A
major Brain Science Symposium is currently being planned
for the fall.
"We've set out concrete, bite-sized goals that we will
be able to strive toward in the next year or so as this
institute's work gets under way," Griffin said. "We plan to
set quite expansive long-term goals."
Edward Miller, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of
Johns Hopkins Medicine, said, "This is an exciting
move for The Johns Hopkins University and Hopkins
Medicine. [This institute] represents an important
collaboration between the Whiting School of
Engineering, the Krieger School of Arts and
Sciences and the Applied Physics Laboratory
and will help us continue our leadership role in
both neuroscience research and treatment of
brain and neurological disorders."