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April 5, 2007

Pitt-CMU neuroscience center gets $7 million grant

Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University have received three grants totaling more than $7 million from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Science Foundation.

The grants will support programs that train undergraduate and graduate students in basic neuroscience, computational neuroscience, multimodal neuroimaging and other interdisciplinary endeavors. The programs will be offered through the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), which is run jointly by the universities.

“The three new grants the CNBC has received will enable our students to participate in the synthesis of disciplines, which is the essence of modern neuroscience,” said Peter Strick, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine and co-director of CNBC. “We are moving into a new era of multidisciplinary training in which we are asking our students to stretch intellectually. The result is a new generation of multidisciplinary neuroscientists who are comfortable asking complex questions and then using the most appropriate approaches to solve them.”

“These grants recognize the excellence of the CNBC in cross-disciplinary brain research,” said Carl Olson, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon and acting co-director of CNBC. “Training students to bridge multiple fields, such as behavioral psychology, brain imaging and computer modeling, is the aim of these programs.”

CNBC is dedicated to understanding the neural mechanisms that give rise to cognitive processes, including learning and memory, language and thought, perception and attention, and planning and action.

CNBC faculty members include researchers with appointments in the departments of biological sciences, computer science, psychology, robotics and statistics at Carnegie Mellon; and bioengineering, mathematics, neurobiology, neurology, neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology at Pitt.

CNBC is poised to train computational neuroscientists with help from a $2 million grant from the NIDA through the Blueprint for Neuroscience, established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to the NIH, the blueprint aims to develop new tools, resources and training opportunities to accelerate the pace of discovery in neuroscience research and to enhance cooperative activities among 15 NIH institutes and centers that support research on the nervous system.

This grant will support programs that provide undergraduate students at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon with a strong foundation in quantitative science and basic neuroscience, and will enable the training of doctoral students in computational neuroscience.

The grant also will provide for the creation of new courses and professional development activities for faculty members. Principal investigators on this grant are Robert Kass, professor of statistics at Carnegie Mellon, and G. Bard Ermentrout, professor of mathematics at Pitt.

Researchers at CNBC received another $2 million from the NIDA on behalf of the NIH’s Blueprint for Neuroscience to develop a new, multimodal neuroimaging training program (MNTP). Advances in in vivo imaging techniques now allow neuroscientists to visualize how the living brain functions at a molecular, cellular and system level.

Principal investigators for this program are Seong-Gi Kim, professor of radiology and neurobiology at Pitt, and William Eddy, professor of statistics at CMU.

The third training grant from the NSF renews CNBC’s existing integrative graduate education and research training (IGERT) program. The IGERT training option offers graduate students more specialized, in-depth training than traditional programs because it allows them to work with mentors outside their home discipline.

Principal investigators on the IGERT award are Carol Colby, professor of neuroscience at Pitt, and David Touretzky, research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon.

For more information on CNBC research and training opportunities, visit the web site or

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