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BSi Funds Research Initiatives to Launch New “Synapses, Circuits and Cognitive Disorders” Program

January 2011. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Brain Science Institute has just announced the funding of grants totaling 5 million dollars over a two-year period to launch its new Synapses, Circuits and Cognitive Disorders Program.  Twelve grants were funded out of 28 applications. The awards were given to individual and collaborative investigators in 12 different Departments in 4 Schools throughout the University. These grants will advance the BSi goal to address the fundamental role of synapses in brain function at the molecular, cellular or systems level as well as address the mechanisms underlying cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism.

“Major advances have been made in our understanding of synaptic transmission and plasticity and recent studies have indicated that the disruption of synaptic function underlies many cognitive disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism,” said Dr. Jack Griffin, Director of the Brain Science Institute in announcing these awards. “At Hopkins we plan to push this research beyond its current limits to aggressively get at the heart of these debilitating and devastating illnesses.”

In the last six months the BSi has organized and convened working groups in five related areas to bring Hopkins researchers from across the University interested in these topics together to brainstorm some of the big questions in this field, to promote the exchange of ideas and to generate interdisciplinary collaborations.

In June, the BSi invited Johns Hopkins University faculty members to submit proposals for funding in these areas. Dr. Rick Huganir, Chair of the Neuroscience Department and Co-Director of the BSi will oversea the new Synapses, Circuits and Cognitive Disorders Program. “Research proposals that address the fundamental role of synapses in brain function at the molecular, cellular or systems level or that address the mechanisms underlying cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism were strongly encouraged.”

Awards were given in six major areas for innovative research approaches and programs: Synapse and Circuit Development: Synaptic and Neuronal Plasticity Alzheimer’s disease and Aging: Autism Spectrum Disorders and Schizophrenia.  Awards range from $160,000 to $900,000 for 2-year programs, with extended support contingent on clear productivity.

A panel of expert external and internal investigators scored the applications based on innovation, ability to transform the field, and on the formation of new collaborative groups.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine Brain Science Institute’s (BSi) mission is to solve fundamental questions about brain development and function and to use these insights to understand the mechanisms of brain disease. This new knowledge will provide the catalyst for the facilitation and development of effective therapies.

CBS interview

Full list of funded projects