History of BRI

The Brain Research Institute (BRI) became an Organized Research Unit (ORU) in 1959. In 1960, Professor John French became its first Director, and the BRI moved into its home in the new Center for Health Sciences at UCLA . The great contributions of the first generation of leaders (Drs. French, Horace Magoun, Donald Lindsley and Charles Sawyer) were their promotion of neuroscience as a distinctive research endeavor and their recognition that brain research is inherently interdisciplinary. After Dr. French stepped down as Director in 1976, the University initiated a national search for a successor. It ultimately chose an internal candidate, Dr. Carmine Clemente, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anatomy, as the BRI’s second Director. In 1987, Professor Kenneth Shine, Dean of the School of Medicine, asked Dr. Arnold Scheibel, Professor of Anatomy and of Psychiatry, to become the BRI’s Acting Director and charged him with setting a new direction for the BRI. Dean Shine also took over the management of space within the original BRI building.

Dr. Scheibel served as Acting Director from 1987 to 1990, and then as Director until 1995. Under his leadership, the BRI instituted a system of affinity groups—working groups that meet regularly to discuss crosscutting topics. These discussions have resulted in the submission and funding of several training program and program project grants, including one that created the Alzheimer’s Disease Center. During the early and mid 1980s, reviews of the BRI-affiliated Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience indicated a need to incorporate new developments in molecular and cellular biology into the curriculum. Dean Shine and Vice Chancellor Claudia Mitchell-Kernan (Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Graduate Division) appointed Professor Allan Tobin from the Department of Biology as Chair of the Neuroscience Program, with a mandate to give it new direction. The Neuroscience Program dramatically revised its curriculum and began to attract the highest-caliber graduate students. In 1995, Dr. Tobin succeeded Dr. Scheibel as BRI Director. Dr. Tobin appointed Professor Arthur Arnold as Associate Director for Education and Professor Anthony Campagnoni as Associate Director for Research. Dr. Arnold was also appointed Chair of the Neuroscience Ph.D. program and continued the improvement process, while Dr. Campagnoni initiated a planning process for the core facilities that ultimately led to their financial solvency. Several advisory committees also began to provide consultative leadership, including an External Advisory Board. In 1998, the BRI moved into the new Gonda (Goldschmied) Neuroscience Research Center, and Dean Gerald Levey (Provost of Health Sciences and Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA) returned responsibility for managing the BRI’s space to its Director.

In 1998, an external review committee of the BRI, chartered by Vice-Chancellor for Research Kumar Patel, reported, “The BRI, under the leadership of Dr. Tobin appears to be recapturing the vision and scientific visibility that characterized this institute at its outset.” Dr. Tobin was appointed to a second term as director in 2000, and in 2001 named Professor Marie-Françoise Chesselet as Associate Director for Education and Professor David Glanzman as Associate Director for Research. Dr. Chesselet was also appointed Chair of the Neuroscience Ph.D. program when Dr. Arthur Arnold was appointed Chair of the Department of Physiological Science. In 2002, Professor Robin Fisher became Cores Director with the charge of acquiring and managing the scientific tools needed for the next generation of neuroscience research. In 2002, Dr. Chesselet was appointed Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Dr. Glanzman received an NIH K award that precluded him from serving in an administrative capacity. Fortunately, Dr. Michael Levine, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science, agreed to serve as the BRI’s Associate Director for Education and also Chair of the Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience. Dr. Chris Evans, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science, as appointed as the BRI’s Associate Director for Research. In 2002, Provost and Dean Gerald Levey appointed a neuroscience planning committee, chaired by Professor Peter Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, “to deliberate upon constructive ways in which we may continue to build the neurosciences here at UCLA.” Dean Levey charged the committee to be “…expansive, geared to looking toward the future, and innovative.” This charge closely mirrors the BRI Faculty Advisory Committee’s vision of the BRI’s future role in UCLA’s vibrant and integrated neuroscience community. At the end of 2003, Dr. Allan Tobin retired from UCLA. BRI Associate Directors, Dr. Chris Evans (Research) and Dr. Michael Levine (Education) served as Acting Co-Directors during 2004. In December, 2004, Dr. Chris Evans was appointed as the Director of the Brain Research Institute.