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BSi e-newsletter - Fall 2012

The latest in BSi accomplishments

Message from Directors

The Brain Science Institute (BSi) was founded in 2007 to solve fundamental questions about brain development and function and to translate these findings into practices, therapies, pharmaceutical solutions and policies.

The results of the initial investments in the Hopkins neuroscience community have been fantastic. In all cases, the BSi-funded and published research lead to additional funding, foundational discoveries in basic neuroscience as well as approaches to patient-oriented problems/diagnoses:

We will continue to focus on basic-to-clinical neuroscience and translational neuroscience initiatives. New faculty structure and intiatives being put in place will allow for continual growth and new possibilities.  Read full message

 Jeff Rothsein
Jeffrey D. Rothstein M.D., Ph.D.
The John W. Griffin M.D. Director for the Brain Science Institute



Richard L. Huganir Ph.D.
Co-Director for the Brain Science Institute

A new faculty structure 

In 2012 the Brain Science Institute began to develop its permanent structure as a faculty-based institute. An explicit fundamental mission of the BSi has been to build the bridges between basic and clinical neuroscience, culminating in real translation to patients.  

Having long term, primary and joint faculty in place creates a firm research foundation to enhance the scholarly pursuit of brain science which, up until now, has solely been achieved on a grant/award basis. We are not diverting from the previous model we are adding to it for the perpetual growth of the BSi.



The number of people involved in the BSi has grown at an amazing rate. The enterprise started with roughly 75 people at its launch in 2007 - - including staff, funded researchers and working groups -- and that figure now exceeds well over 500 people, but none have been primary faculty positions.

Jeff Rothstein, BSi Director, anticipates continual development of our core faculty over the next several years.  Initial growth will be predominantly in two new divisions 1) Cognition and Synaptic Plasticity and 2) Models of CNS Pathophysiology and Disease. Read full article

Assay development group at the BSi's Neurotranslational Program

The focus of this group, directed by Camilo Rojas, is to develop assays which follow activities of biomolecules like enzymes, transporters and receptors in vitro. When ready, assays are used to screen for small molecules that would bring the desired effect (mostly inhibit) on the activity of the biomolecules.

In close collaboration with the medicinal chemistry and the in vivo pharmacology colleagues at BSi NTP, screening “hits” are modified to improve on their drug-like properties while trying to keep their biological activity.



This involves a cyclical effort where hit analogs are synthesized by medicinal chemists and tested for biological activity by the assay development and in vivo pharmacology groups followed by the synthesis of new analogs.

The assay group is also involved in evaluating compounds for their metabolic stability and their ability to reach biological matrices (e.g. plasma, brain) to elucidate their pharmacokinetic properties. This work is carried out in close collaboration with the in vivo pharmacology group. Read full article

Advancing the BSi’s Cognitive and Synaptic Plasticity Division

Dan O’Connor, a researcher who joined the BSi’s Cognitive and Synaptic Plasticity Division this past year as its first hire, uses an imaging technique that allows him to visualize the cellular-level activities in a mouse’s brain while the living animal acts out a range of behaviors.

“We can view patterns of neuron excitation that underlie perception,” he says, describing a method in which a small window can be introduced into a mouse’s skull to allow



remarkably vivid microscopy - - using a two-photon imaging approach -- scientists are increasingly learning to tap. “We’re looking for the biological bases of cognition,” says O’Connor.

O’Connor’s research program has also vaulted the BSi to the cutting edge of the emerging field of “optogenetics”, allowing neuroscientists to manipulate the behaviors of functionally distinct neuron clusters using genetically encoded proteins. Read full article




Dwight E. Bergles, Ph.D.

For Dwight Bergles, the BSi’s growing mastery of two-photon imaging opens up one of neuroscience’s most enticing frontiers. Beyond providing exquisite real-time access into the signaling process between neurons at synapses, says Bergles, this brave new microscopy illuminates the action within the nervous system’s supporting actors, the glial cells.  Read full article


One Mind Conference

Hopkins will host the 2013 national gathering of One Mind for Research, a powerful national advocacy group whose vision is that “All mankind experiences a life-time free of brain disease.”   Read full article


The BSi has just announced the funding of eight awards over a two-year period for Traumatic Brain Inquiry: Mechanisms and Treatment. Read full article


The BSi has just awarded 7 Brain Science Translational Research Grants, each for a period of one year. Read full article


Coming on Thursdays this Fall to WYPR. “Brain Talk,” a BSi production will host four-minute interviews on timely topics in weekly segments. Learn more


Working groups are monthly  interdisciplinary collaborative meetings open to all of Johns Hopkins faculty and staff.  Learn more about working groups

Upcoming meetings:
Blood Brain Barrier
Computational Neuroscience
Neural Regeneration


Mind Share is the BSi weekly email update on working groups, call for proposals, lectures and programs.
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