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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

World’s Largest Collection of Brains by Matt McGann '00

The new Brain & Cognitive Sciences Complex opens tomorrow.

There was a nice article in yesterday’s Boston Globe about the opening of the new Brain & Cognitive Sciences Complex at MIT:

On Friday, MIT plans to dedicate what it bills as the largest collection of brain scientists under one roof in the world.

The new 411,000-square-foot building of limestone and glass, the largest research building on campus, stands on what must already be one of the brainiest corners in the world: at Vassar and Main streets in Cambridge. Its neighbors include the genetics powerhouse of the Broad Institute, the engineering might of the computer science department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the start-up energy of the 150 or so biotech companies in Kendall Square.

So close to one another and to such neighbors, researchers in the $175 million Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex say they will have the opportunity to collaborate in ways that promise progress on some of the thorniest problems of neuroscience, from the nature of consciousness to the origins of schizophrenia and autism.

They talk a little bit about neuroscience research:

Take autism, said Mriganka Sur, head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences: The disorder is complex, both in its genes and its symptoms. Genetically, it appears to depend on small effects from many genes, and such complex diseases are “the hardest ones to crack,” Sur said. But “we think we can crack them in this building, because of the expertise that exists.” […]

Among the ideas being explored in the building is a plan to try to combine brain-scanning with genetics to figure out the basics of mental illness, said [Prof. Robert] Desimone of the McGovern [Institute for Brain Research]. Currently, he said, psychiatric diagnoses are based on sets of symptoms rather than underlying biology, a messy way to define diseases. The hope, he said, is to find patterns in the brain scans of patients with, say, schizophrenia and then pinpoint the genes associated with those patterns.

They also talk a bit about MIT and neuroscience:

Brain science may not leap to mind when people think of MIT, but the school’s president, Susan Hockfield, is a neuroscientist, and the institute beat several other universities to win the $350 million gift that forms the basis of the McGovern Institute.

Historically, Hockfield said, MIT has churned out inventions such as radar because of the mingling of scientists and engineers. “And in many ways,” she said, “the new Brain and Cognitive Sciences building provides that same kind of cauldron of collaboration.” […]

Traditionally, Desimone said, brain-science centers have grown out of medical schools, where researchers could tap a ready pool of patients. But being in a hospital “doesn’t necessarily give you the technological edge that you need to really make progress.”

These days, he said, neuroscience is reaching the point where “finally, finally, we have the tools,” the brain scanners and sophisticated methods in molecular biology and genetics. So now, he said, it makes more sense to locate brain science in a “technology-centered place,” such as MIT, where those tools can best be developed.

Want to learn more about majoring in Brain & Cognitive Science (“Course 9”) at MIT? Browse on over to Mollie’s blog (a real live Course 9 student!). Also, check out some of the Brain & Cognitive Science classes on OpenCourseWare.

7 responses to “World’s Largest Collection of Brains”

  1. Merudh says:

    hey matt,

    first time poster on your blog…I’ve been posting on Ben’s for quite a while now. Anyway, this is awesome. One of the main reasons I applied to MIT was because of its awesome research opportunities in neuroscience (course 9! and such). This news simply adds to my enthusiasm.

    By the way, do you watch House on Fox?

    Best show ever!

    I know that was random, but its one of my all time favorite shows and I was wondering if you were a fan. let me know smile

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Matt,

    Your blog is very informative, and I really enjoyed reading it.

  3. Saad Zaheer says:

    “The new 411,000-square-foot building of limestone and glass, the largest research building on campus, stands on what must already be one of the brainiest corners in the world: at Vassar and Main streets in Cambridge.”

    Thats definitely true, Vassar and main Streets are no doubt one of the brainiest corners in the world. A true resource of the smartest people in the world!

  4. Sam says:

    MIT just keeps getting better and better.

  5. James says:

    I have a question about my Teacher Evaluation Forms: I am homeschooled, and my only teacher is my mother. Especially in the subjects of Math and Science, I was largely self taught, and I doubt that the admissions office would accept a teacher evaluation from myself. smile So, what should I do about them? Also, is it acceptable for my mom to fill out the secondary school report?

  6. Christian says:

    Hi,Matt!

    I’ve got a question about YOEFL test results here.

    I’m a senior-2 student in Shanghai and just received my TOEFL scores.I got 4.5 in the TWE(writing) test,653 in the next part.(I assume that a score above 5 in TWE would be better.)Will this affect my application(including my application for financial aid)

    Thanks a lot,Matt.I’m just wondering if I should take another TOEFL test these days when lots of school work,activities and SAT preparation are crammed together in my life. smileI’m a bit lost now.

  7. SunMi says:

    Wow, I wish these blogs would have been available to me when I was applying. =) I’m so proud of our new building smile!!