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New Staglin neuroscience center to probe how human mind works

Faculty campuswide will be participating in the new Staglin IMHRO (International Mental Health Research Organization ) Center for Cognitive Neuroscience to probe how the human mind works, using state-of-the-science imaging technology.
 
“The Staglin IMHRO Center for Cognitive Neuroscience is an exciting addition to UCLA,” said Scott Waugh, executive vice chancellor and provost. “It will advance scientific understanding, promote innovative teaching and host public programs that can inform the community about fascinating new developments in cognitive neuroscience. UCLA is on the cutting edge of the revolution in mental health, and this center will greatly enhance UCLA’s strengths in this vital area.”
 
The center, which is scheduled to open officially in July, will be housed on the C floor of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
 
Tyrone D. Cannon photo 2
Tyrone D. Cannon, director of the new Staglin IMHRO Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
“We want to develop preventive and therapeutic approaches to reduce human suffering,” said Tyrone D. Cannon, director of the center and the Staglin Family Professor of Psychology, and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. “We need to cut across the traditional boundaries to achieve that. UCLA is unique among most universities in being open to this kind of cross-disciplinary, collaborative research. The spirit of collaboration among the faculty is very high here.
 
“This center will allow faculty to come together, think about problems together, design studies together, and pursue funding together in a way that they otherwise would not,” Cannon said. “We are interested in teaching, research and the dissemination of knowledge. New knowledge often has the fastest pace where the boundaries between traditional fields of knowledge become blurry.
 
“I hope over the next 10 years we increasingly recognize the limits of the traditional boundaries of knowledge,” Cannon continued. “We have to be open to change and not get too comfortable. In order to profit the most from the advances occurring in molecular biology, brain imaging and genetics, we have to break those barriers down. When we do that, important, impactful results are likely to follow. I think that will occur with our understanding of schizophrenia and its genetic basis, and other areas as well, such as bipolar disorder.”
 
The center will include psychologists, psychiatrists, physicists, neurologists, mathematicians, linguists, electrical engineers and other scientists who study emotional states and how they affect decision-making, social information processing, depression and anxiety disorders.
 
“We want to run the full gamut, with an integrated attack on how the brain supports the mind,” Cannon said.
 
Shari and Garen Staglin photo in the Staglin Family Vineyard credit Eric Risberg
Shari and Garen Staglin at the Staglin Family Vineyard. Photo by Eric Risberg.
The center, which includes a technologically sophisticated system for brain scanning and electro-physiological laboratories to study the electrical activity in the brain, is made possible thanks to a generous gift from the family of Garen K. and Sharalyn King Staglin. The Staglins are giving $4 million over 10 years through the Staglin Family Music Festival for Mental Health and the Staglins’ philanthropic organization, the International Mental Health Research Organization.
 
The Staglins have already contributed some $10 million to UCLA, including funding for the endowed chair that Cannon holds. They have also funded a second center at UCLA headed by Cannon, the Staglin Family Music Festival Center for the Assessment and Prevention of Prodromal States. Through this center, researchers are working to prevent and detect schizophrenia in its early stages, as well as other psychotic illnesses, including bipolar disorder. 
 
“UCLA is extremely grateful to Garen and Shari Staglin and their family, for not only their generosity, but also their insights and valuable contributions in combating schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis,” Waugh said.
 
“One thing I have really enjoyed is learning about a business world model,” Cannon said. “Shari and Garen come from that world. They use the term ‘venture philanthropy,’ which is an idea I really like. Science is often not about taking many risks, at least not in relation to the government funding sources we typically pursue. There is a need, not just in cognitive neuroscience but more broadly, for higher risk, but[cl1]  higher payoff venture capital. That is where the Staglins have really made a mark in the mental health field. They allow — indeed encourage — us to take more risks, and these risks often pay off.
 
“We are able to take risks to pursue novel hypotheses, thanks to the Staglins,” Cannon added.
 
The center will also host a speaker series that will be open to the public as well as conferences with internationally renowned neuroscientists.
 
Cognitive neuroscience focuses on ways in which the brain supports the mind, from motor behavior to complex decision-making, and on the disorders of the brain. “We want to help people when those systems of the brain have broken down,” said Cannon, who is also associate director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
 
“We are trying to understand how the brain goes awry in people who have mental disorders,” Cannon said. “We are trying to understand how the structure of the brain relates to the mind in healthy people and all of the ways those processes can go awry. Our new center is aimed right at that intersection. By understanding those connections, we hope to develop therapeutic approaches that can help people.”
 
Garen Staglin is a senior advisor with FT Ventures LP, and past president and CEO of eOne Global LP, an e-commerce consulting firm. The Staglins own the acclaimed Staglin Family Vineyard in Napa Valley operated by Shari Staglin. It is one of the largest vineyards owned by a single family.
 
The Division of Life Sciences, the Semel Institute and the Office of Vice Chancellor for Research also contributed funding to the new center, as did institute donors.