The Brain Imaging Center (BIC)

The Neurogenomics Center

The Molecular Imaging Center

The Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience
HWNI Technology Centers - Addressing and Anticipating the Needs of Modern Neuroscience

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Studies of the brain are rapidly expanding in two complementary directions. On the one hand, neuroscience is advancing dramatically from techniques and approaches of molecular and cell biology - recombinant DNA, gene cloning, transgenic and gene knock-out technologies, gene chip and microarray technologies, functional genomics, and functional molecular imaging methods. With such tools, the functions of genes and molecules in the brain of model systems can be studied and manipulated with remarkable elegance to elucidate the molecular basis of the brain's behavior, plasticity, function, and development.

The brain is more than its genes and synapses. It is also an amazing computational machine, and dramatic technical advances - e.g., PET, functional MRI, SQUID, and other physiological, imaging, and computational techniques - have begun to make it possible to study entire networks of neurons as they function in the living brain, or as they might theoretically work (as modeled on powerful computers). These advances have transformed the fields of psychology and cognitive science so that the brain and behavior can be dissected functionally. Some of the technological advances, such as SQUID, and important advances in NMR technology, have been invented by physicists and chemists on the Berkeley campus.

In spite of these rapid advances, in many cases, studies on the brain continue to be held back by limits in our technology. The field is in constant need of new and better ways to visualize the details of brain activity in awake behaving animals and at the level of ensembles and circuits of neurons. At the same time, the field needs new ways of monitoring and manipulating gene expression in the developing and functioning brain, so that we can learn which genes and proteins are involved in particular brain functions.

The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute is playing a powerful and unique role in advancing brain science by bringing together physical scientists (e.g., from physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering) to work in collaboration with neuroscientists to drive these technological advances. We are capitalizing on the technological inventions emerging from our faculty and the synergy in working across disciplines to build four Centers that provide the tools to advance our understanding of the brain.

The Henry H. "Sam" Wheeler, Jr. Brain Imaging Center (BIC), led by Professor Mark D'Esposito, is one of the most innovative and powerful imaging facilities in the world dedicated solely to basic research on human and animal brain function. The Judy & John Webb Neuroimaging Computational Facilty enables the analysis of data generated by the Wheeler Brain Imaging Center. Not dependent upon a patient base or hospital, the BIC houses a 4 Tesla fMRI, and forms the nucleus for active collaboration amongst our cognitive neuroscientists, physicists, chemists, and computer scientists. Our physical scientists and neuroscientists work together to enhance the temporal and spatial resolution of brain imaging technologies, and thus to allow us to probe deeper and more precisely into the dynamic functioning of the living brain.

The Neurogenomics Center, led by Professor John Ngai, creates and exploits the most advanced gene chip and gene microarray technologies to dissect brain function. As we enter the post-genomics era, with sequence data now or soon available from the entire human genome as well as genomes of model organisms (e.g., worm, fly, and mouse), the Neurogenomics Center will allow Berkeley neuroscientists to capitalize on this wealth of molecular information.

The Molecular Imaging Center, led by Professor Ehud Isacoff, exploits the most recent advances in molecular genetics and the physics of imaging to visualize the dynamic properties of nerve cells in the living brain, and to turn brain molecules into optical reporters of brain activity and function.

The Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience (RCTN), was established in 2005 and is directed by Professor Bruno Olshausen. The genesis of the Redwood Center goes back over twenty years when its founding director, Jeff Hawkins (the architect of the Palm Pilot, Visor and Treo families of handheld computers) became interested in neuroscience and understanding how information was processed in the brain from a mathematical and information-theory point of view. In April 2002, Hawkins founded the Redwood Neuroscience Institute (RNI) as a non-profit scientific research organization studying and promoting biologically accurate mathematical models of memory and cognition. In 2005, the RNI transferred its assets and operations to the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute to create the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience.