On the Frontiers of Science
Published Jan 1, 2016 8:00 AM
Neuroscience has advanced more in the past decade and a half than in all of human history. UCLA has been at the forefront of this extraordinary journey for more than 50 years.
Scientific advances in the study of the human brain are proceeding at a staggering rate. New discoveries illuminating the brain’s intricate design and function appear almost daily, and the wonder of these findings is matched only by the breadth of their impact on everything from medicine and computer science to ethics and architecture.
UCLA has been a world leader in brain and neuroscience research for more than half a century, going all the way back to the founding of the UCLA Brain Research Institute in 1959. Today, more than 500 faculty members across campus work collaboratively on some aspect of neuroscience. Our researchers have developed effective new treatments for mental and physical diseases, and have produced novel applications of brain-related research across a spectrum of academic disciplines.
It is precisely because of UCLA’s leadership in brain research that this past fall, I announced the second UCLA Grand Challenge, which targets depression. Depressive disorders adversely affect health, work and relationships, and are the strongest risk factors for suicide.
Our goal in this effort, the largest and most ambitious ever undertaken to understand and treat the disease, is to cut the burden of depressive disorders in half by the year 2050, and to eliminate it by the end of the century. Already, more than 100 members of our faculty in 25 departments are involved in the effort, and that number is expected to increase as the Grand Challenge moves forward.
We will dismantle the stigma of depression, and our work will lead to a better quality of life for many who struggle with this devastating illness in all of its forms.
You can read more about the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge in this edition of UCLA Magazine, which is organized around the theme of brain science. The issue provides a fascinating overview of UCLA’s brightest moments in brain research and illuminates a future filled with truly dazzling scientific possibilities.
Also in these pages, John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, dean of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and a renowned neuroscientist, outlines today’s discoveries and where neuroscience may take all of us in the future.
Mazziotta played a lead role in the establishment of the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, a global resource for studying the human brain through state-of-the-art equipment and a faculty with expertise that ranges from computer science to algorithm development.
Another feature explores the groundbreaking work of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program, which diagnoses and treats sports-related and non-sports-related concussions and other traumatic brain injuries. Already, the program has given birth to the nation’s first Pediatric Neurology Fellowship Program, and it has equipped UCLA football players with sensor-carrying helmets that register head impacts and help us understand the forces underlying concussions and brain injury.
The brain and its link to human behavior are examined in a series of other stories in this issue. Peter Whybrow, director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and a bestselling author, sheds light on the effect that our frenetic modern lifestyle has on brain health. The meaning of moods is explored by UCLA alumna Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the world’s foremost authorities on mood disorders and former director of UCLA’s Affective Disorders Clinic.
There is much inside this issue of UCLA Magazine certain to provoke thought and discussion of this “golden age” of brain research and the profound changes that it promises for our society. UCLA researchers will continue to play a leading role in this exciting century of new discoveries.