O’Donnell Brain Institute helps U.S. effort to research learning, memory

This image from Dr. Wei Xu’s lab traces the communication of nerve cells from the prefrontal cortex to its downstream brain regions. Dr. Xu is among four UT Southwestern neuroscientists awarded grants through the federal BRAIN Initiative to research learning, memory, and behavior.

DALLAS – Nov. 2, 2018 – UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute will help in a national effort to understand the neural circuits behind learning, memory, and behavior.

Four UT Southwestern Medical Center neuroscientists have received a combined $1.6 million in awards through the federal BRAIN Initiative, a program launched in 2013 to accelerate research and develop potential therapies for brain disorders. The program is funding scientific projects across the country focusing on topics ranging from mental health to opioid addiction.

UT Southwestern’s contribution will involve researching how neurons enable memory formation and recollection, how the mammalian brain decodes smell and translates it to behavior, in addition to studying songbirds to better understand how the brain controls behavior. A fourth project will develop technology that tracks brain circuits to understand how specific wiring and rewiring of the brain contributes to learning and memory.

“These NIH awards highlight UT Southwestern’s outstanding talent in the neurosciences, in particular the expertise these scientists have in studying how the brain learns and stores memory,” said Dr. Joseph Takahashi, Chair of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern. “By better understanding the underpinnings of speech and memory disorders, we hope to unravel the many mysteries of the brain and develop effective therapies for a number of neurological conditions.”

The National Institutes of Health announced awards to the following UT Southwestern scientists:

Dr. Meeks is Associate Professor of Neuroscience with the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. Drs. Pfeiffer, Roberts, and Xu are Assistant Professors of Neuroscience with the O’Donnell Brain Institute. Dr. Pfeiffer is also a Southwestern Medical Foundation Scholar in Biomedical Research, Dr. Roberts is a Thomas O. Hicks Scholar in Medical Research, and Dr. Xu is a Louise W. Kahn Scholar in Biomedical Research. Dr. Takahashi is an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and holds the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience at UT Southwestern.

The NIH BRAIN Initiative® is managed by 10 institutes whose missions and current research portfolios complement the goals of the BRAIN Initiative: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Eye Institute, National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.4 million outpatient visits a year.