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NIH Awards $2M To UCSD Neuroscientists

NIH Awards $2M To UCSD Neuroscientists


Brenda Bloodgood, co-director, San Diego Brain Consortium


Photo caption:

Photo credit: Salk Institute

Researchers can currently observe small groups of neurons firing in real-time. But they're hoping to get bigger pictures by developing better brain imaging technology through the BRAIN initiative.

The National Institutes of Health on Thursday awarded four brain research teams at UC San Diego $2.27 million, part of a federal project launched in 2014 to learn more about basic neurobiology.

UC San Diego has received more than $6 million under the BRAIN Initiative since 2014. The latest round of funding will help neuroscientists create detailed maps of brain stems, which regulate things like breathing and swallowing, and use pulses of light to allow for better brain imaging.

"In order to understand how the human brain works, we have to map its functions in all of their complexity," said Brenda Bloodgood, co-director of the San Diego Brain Consortium. That group is a joint project between UC San Diego, San Diego State University, the Salk Institute and the Neurosciences Institute. "The brain stem controls some of the most basic functions of our body: blood pressure, breathing. We don’t know much about how the neurons are connected to drive these functions."

Bloodgood and other neuroscientists are hoping the funding eventually leads to a "neurotech" industry in San Diego to rival its biotech economy, with researchers commercializing some of the technology already being built in their labs.

"Some of the excitement comes from new ways to measure the brain's activity," UC San Diego's Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind director Nick Spitzer said. "Some of these are almost ready to deliver at this point."

Bloodgood said selling some of these tools could help labs around the world gain access to technology they're unable to fabricate on their own.

She joins KPBS Midday Edition on Friday to discuss what other technology is being developed in San Diego and how large the industry could become.

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