Annual Message from Ehud Isacoff

Director, Berkeley Neuroscience and Berkeley Brain Initiative (2013-present)
Professor of Neurobiology, Molecular and Cell Biology Department

December 5, 2018

Berkeley Neuroscience spans twelve departments, and at its core, our faculty and their research groups apply their diverse expertise and approaches to add to our knowledge about the brain in health, illness, and recovery over the lifespan. It is with great pleasure that I welcome the newest members of our community: Lexin Li (Public Health, Biostatistics and Epidemiology), John Clarke (Physics), Michel Maharbiz (EECS), Ellen Lumpkin (MCB, arriving in Jan 2019), and Emily Cooper (Optometry & Vision Science) who has returned to us as a faculty member after graduating from the HWNI PhD program in 2012! I also want to congratulate our faculty, postdocs, and graduate students who have won prestigious awards this year—click here to see our award announcements.

Commenting on Berkeley’s direct connection to 2018 Nobel laureates Jim Allison, Frances Arnold, and Paul Romer, Randy Katz, our Vice Chancellor for Research, recently wrote about how UC Berkeley embraces use-inspired research that “characterizes the work of scientists who search for fundamental knowledge, yet select questions and methods based on their relevance to real-world issues.” This approach is clearly seen in the research of Berkeley Neuroscience faculty. Many had publications this year related to brain health and wellness—from neurodevelopmental disorders and Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, to sleep and cognitive functioning. Some of our many recent research discoveries are highlighted at this link. Berkeley Neuroscience members have also contributed to scientific and historical research on socially-relevant issues such as bias and discrimination, and perspectives on topics such as the benefits of teaching undergraduates.

Our researchers also actively utilize and develop new techniques and technologies to answer fundamental questions in neuroscience and to develop treatments for diseases and disorders. For example, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing has been used by Berkeley Neuroscience labs to understand the mechanisms underlying neurological disorders and to begin developing treatments. Several of our members are developing new technologies to better observe or manipulate the workings of the brain, with potential applications such as neuroprosthetics. We are excited about new collaborations between Berkeley and institutions like UCSF that can help turn scientific discoveries into treatments for patients—such as genome surgery that is being tested as a treatment for genetic forms of vision loss.

Brain aging is an important area of research that has widespread impact on individuals and society. This year, we were pleased to offer the Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge on the topic of “The Aging Brain,” thanks to the generosity of visionary philanthropic partners. This is the second year we have offered the Challenge, which is designed to kick-start new multi-disciplinary collaborations that create breakthroughs in understanding the brain and mind in health and disease. This year’s successful collaborative team will receive $190,000 over two years of novel high-risk/high-reward research in new areas of discovery.

In the next year, we look forward to welcoming a new cohort of PhD students into our community, continuing our collaborative and innovative research towards a better understanding of the nervous system, and improving lives through scientific discovery.

Up next

Learn more about the Berkeley Neuroscience PhD Program in the annual message from PhD Program Director Michael Silver.

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