Memory. Learning. Consciousness. Attention. Sleep. These higher brain functions form the very essence of human life, yet they are not fully understood by scientists. The Neurosciences Institute, founded in 1981 by Nobel laureate Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., Ph.D., is dedicated to understanding how the human brain "works" at the most fundamental level.
The Neurosciences Institute, formed in 1981, is an independent scientific research organization dedicated to furthering our knowledge of the biological bases of brain function, particularly its higher functions such as perception, memory, and learning. This knowledge will profoundly affect the way we think about ourselves and will have practical implications for many aspects of our lives from medicine to education to philosophy. In addition to thirty-five resident scientists engaged in theoretical and experimental neurobiological research, the Institute serves as host to visiting scientists who pursue their own interests. Neurosciences Research Foundation, Inc., a publicly supported non-profit corporation, is the Institute's legal parent.
There are three main categories of activities through which the Institute pursues its goals:
The Institute acts as a unique center in which visiting scientists can meet, exchange ideas, and plan new research. Since 1981, over 900 visiting scientists from 140 institutions and 24 countries have participated in conferences, workshops, symposia, or courses at the Institute or have been Visiting Fellows for periods of several weeks to several months.
The Institute carries out a program of basic research and training for resident Fellows in Theoretical Neurobiology. Since 1988, fellows have produced and published a series of important brain models, called “Brain Based Devices” or “BBD’s” that are at the forefront of computational neuroscience. This research uses advanced computer methods in an approach called synthetic neural modeling: complex neural systems are synthesized from realistically simulated components, each patterned after elements in real nervous systems and operating according to physiological principles. These simulations are used to test ideas about brain processes in ways generally not feasible in laboratory experiments with biological material.
The Institute, in 1995, began a program of basic research for Fellows in Experimental Neurobiology who work in newly completed "wet" experimental laboratories. These fellows tackle key scientific problems in areas including developmental, molecular, and behavioral neurobiology, neuropharmacology, neurophysiology of motor and sensory systems, cellular neurophysiology, and the physiology of sleep.
The Director of the Institute is Dr. Gerald M. Edelman. He received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1972 for his studies on the structure and diversity of antibodies. More recently, he has formulated a detailed theory to explain the development and organization of higher brain functions in terms of a process known as neuronal group selection, and he has extended this work to provide a biologically based theory of consciousness.
The Institute is also the home of the Neurosciences Research Program, an informal college of scientists founded in 1962 to promote interdisciplinary study of the brain. At any one time, there are thirty six NRP Associates from institutions around the world; these distinguished scientists serve seven year terms before becoming Honorary Associates. The NRP meets at the Institute once per year in March