100 Ways: L.A. Eats


Published May 14, 2019 4:08 PM

Frame of Mind

Brain Mapping

It has been called the last frontier of science. Detailed maps of the human brain promise to unravel the mysteries surrounding human sensation, awareness and cognition, potentially paving the way for effective new treatments for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. And UCLA has been at the forefront of the undertaking.

Servers in the Neuroscience Research Building represent the powerful digital technologies enabling unprecedented storage and analysis of data about the brain.

Computer scientist Jacques Vidal planted the first seeds in 1973, when he reported on the first faint brain signals read by a computer, using amplified electroencephalography (EEG). Vidal coined the term “brain-computer interface” for the opening of new channels of communication between humans and machines.

In 1993, John C. Mazziotta — then a UCLA neurologist and now vice chancellor of UCLA health sciences and CEO of UCLA Health — coined the term “brain mapping” and founded the UCLA Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center.

No one said it would be easy. Inside each of our heads, approximately 100 billion neurons fire 200 times per second, on average, connecting to roughly 10,000 other neurons as information is processed and transmitted. And because every brain is unique and constantly changing, the map under development is a probabilistic system that enables navigators to home in on variations.

The effort requires wide-ranging expertise — from medicine, engineering, the basic sciences, nanoscience and the social sciences. A quarter-century in, hundreds of UCLA researchers, fueled by ever-advancing imaging technologies, are learning what’s going on inside our heads in an increasingly granular way.

Partners over the Decades

UCLA and the Olympics and the Special Olympics


The numbers don’t tell the whole story of UCLA and the Olympics, though those numbers are impressive. Through the 2016 Summer Olympics, UCLA’s all-time medal count stands at 261, including 133 gold, 66 silver and 62 bronze. Bruins have been at every Summer Olympics since 1920 (except 1924), with more than 400 athletes overall, and UCLA has twice served as an Olympic venue (in 1932 and 1984). If you were to choose a singular highlight, it might be the 1960 decathlon showdown between Rafer Johnson ’59 (U.S.A.) and C.K. Yang ’64 (Taiwan) that saw Johnson take the gold while both were coached by UCLA’s Ducky Drake ’27. The current UCLA women’s gymnastics team features former Olympians Kyla Ross (2012) and Madison Kocian (2016), as well as coaches Chris Waller ’91 and Jordyn Wieber ’17. In 2028, UCLA will again serve as an Olympic Village and event site.

Special Olympics

Maybe it was Team USA’s tennis team inviting the player from Malawi to train with them because she had no teammates. Or perhaps it was the fans who bought full kits and cleats for the Haitian soccer team, who arrived with no gear. Most likely, though, what made the UCLA-hosted 2015 Special Olympics truly special were the athletes from around the world. The 2015 Summer Games marked the second time UCLA had hosted, the first having been 1972. In those 43 years, the competition participant numbers rose from 2,500 to 7,000. Rafer Johnson ’59, integral to the Special Olympics since its founding in 1968, said of the 2015 athletes, “On the competitive side, they do not mess around. [But] when that game is finished, they will embrace each other — and it’s not just shaking hands. They truly embrace each other.”

Well Served

The Peace Corps and Teach for America

“UCLA graduates are problem solvers and community builders,” says Selina Duran ’12, Teach for America recruitment director. The Boyle Heights native says UCLA students are uniquely prepared to address inequities in society and work toward social justice in any field. Since 1990, UCLA has sent 1,411 young Bruins to Teach for America, which recruits promising leaders to teach for two years in low-income communities in the United States. UCLA has been the top recruiter for three of the last four years, sending students to urban and rural areas.

The university has had an even longer history with the Peace Corps, the federal agency started by President Kennedy that places volunteers in developing countries to work with local leaders in addressing community challenges from agriculture to education. UCLA has sent more than 2,000 volunteers to the program since it was founded, making it the seventh-biggest feeder university.

UCLA was also one of the first sites for training volunteers back in 1961, so even non-UCLA graduates came to the campus to learn sometimes neverbefore- taught languages from UCLA faculty, along with other skills to help them prepare for their two-year volunteer assignments abroad. Several current UCLA faculty members — in fields as disparate as public health, creative writing and management — attribute having gained their life’s purpose and career direction to their time in the Peace Corps.

Robert Spich, who teaches globalization to business executives from around the world at UCLA Anderson School of Management, says the Peace Corps experience is one way to really develop a global mind-set, which is key to working in a global world.

“I use the metaphor of the Shire,” he says. “Most of us would prefer a world of peace, predictability, certainty, comfort and safety — all those wonderful things that the Shire represents. [But] Peace Corps got you out of the Shire. It got you out into another world.”

Teach for America.