A new center is taking shape, championed and supported by both the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Led by co-directors Aron Barbey and Neal Cohen, the Center for Brain Plasticity brings together researchers, university-wide, with the aims of advancing understanding of the brain and the power of the brain to be changed by experience and other external influences.
“The study of brain plasticity has a long historical connection to the Beckman Institute, and we are pleased to partner with IHSI to establish this center of excellence,” said Jeff Moore, director of the Beckman Institute.
Brain plasticity, or neural plasticity, is the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life—synapse strengthening or weakening, grey matter changes, cortical remapping, and more. The notion of the brain having the capacity to reconfigure itself is a hallmark of modern neuroscience, transforming prior scientific consensus that the brain develops during a critical period in early childhood and remains largely static. This contemporary area of research has the potential to transform much of how we understand the nature of human intelligence, learning, and memory, and how we characterize and treat traumatic brain injury and neurological diseases.
“The Center for Brain Plasticity aims to promote interdisciplinary studies of the neurobiological foundations of brain plasticity, innovative methods and technologies to drive neural plasticity through the application of cognitive training, non-invasive brain stimulation, physical fitness training, mindfulness meditation, and nutrition, among others,” said Barbey, who is associate professor of psychology, neuroscience, bioengineering and full-time Beckman Institute faculty. “The center will also encourage clinical trials that investigate science and technology that aims to mitigate or reverse the effects of cognitive aging, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and neurological disease.”
The Center for Brain Plasticity builds upon the incredible wealth of plasticity research and data at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to provide a nexus for long-term interdisciplinary collaborations. It brings together a community of like-minded investigators, drawing on the strengths of work already being conducted at the Beckman Institute (especially its newly-formed Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity research group), the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute’s (IHSI) Clinical and Translational Neuroscience program area, the Carle Neuroscience Institute, many other centers and initiatives on campus, and with clinical partners.
IHSI Director Neal Cohen spoke to the advantages of aligning efforts and resources in this particular area of health sciences research.
“There is tremendous strength and interest in brain plasticity across multiple campus units at Illinois, and a long history here of significant advances in this field. The new center provides a hub for basic and translational research that aims to measure, model, and elicit brain plasticity through scientific discovery, technological innovations, and clinical application,” said Cohen.
Visit the new Center for Brain Plasticity website at brainplasticity.illinois.edu to learn more. For more information and to collaborate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.