The Institute

"The Brain Research Institute is a catalyst for collaborations among scientists, engineers and clinicians who study brain function and health."

Director's Message

Christopher J. Evans, Ph.D.

The discipline of neuroscience has grown exponentially in the last 30 years by attracting scientists from a wide variety of basic science and clinical disciplines, from cognitive psychology and psychiatry to molecular biology and engineering. Understanding the brain is the greatest frontier in modern life science and medicine. The scientific study of the brain borders the humanities because the brain makes us what we are. The complexity of the brain beckons those interested in tough, important problems. UCLA has invested heavily in the field of neuroscience, establishing the Brain Research Institute in the early 1960s. No fewer than 26 different departments at UCLA have found neuroscience to be so important to their mission that they have hired neuroscientists as faculty. UCLA can now boast neuroscience research and educational programs that are among the top 10 in the world in terms of breadth and quality.

The large size of the UCLA neuroscience community and the diversity of approaches mean that it is impossible for individual departments to take responsibility for stewardship of the discipline of neuroscience at UCLA. The BRI, as the central administrative and intellectual unit, is needed to provide a functional and symbolic center for neuroscience activities on campus. The role is functional in the sense that the BRI fosters interdepartmental cooperation in research and education, and provides services to the neuroscience community as a whole. The role is symbolic because without a central unit the discipline would be seen as fragmented. The symbolism of a unitary neuroscience organization is important in attracting faculty, students and funding to UCLA.

BRI Chairs

Michael Fanselow, Ph.D.

Eleanor I. Leslie Term Chair in Innovative Brain Research

Michael S. Fanselow is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at U.C.L.A. and has held academic appointments at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute and Dartmouth College before coming to UCLA in 1987. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington and received the Edwin B Newman Award for Excellence in Research for his dissertation work there. He has also received the Early Career Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and the D. O. Hebb Award from the American Psychological Association and the Troland Award from the National Academy of Science. He was elected President of the American Psychological Association's Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology and President of the Pavlovian Society.

Dr. Fanselow's research focuses on the nature and function of fear. He is particularly interested in how fear is learned, how fear memories are stored in the brain, and how fear memories are translated into specific behavior patterns.

Alcino Jose Silva, Ph. D.

Eleanor I. Leslie Term Chair in Pioneering Brain Research

Alcino Silva is Professor of Neurobiology, Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, and Psychology. He currently heads the Center for Genetic Studies of Cortical Plasticity, and serves as the co-director of Plasticity and Learning studies at UCLA. He also serves in the Board of Regents of the University of Minho, Dr. Silva was born in Portugal, but his family moved to Luanda, Angola, when he was 3 years old. He came to the United States to attend Rutgers University in 1979 where he worked with William Sofer on Drosophila tRNA non-sense suppressors and minored on philosophy. In 1983 he joined the graduate program of human genetics at the University of Utah, where he worked with Ray White, a pioneer in Human Genetics, on the inheritance of epigenetic information. While a graduate student, Dr. Silva organized yearly graduate symposia where leading luminaries from the Arts and Sciences shared their insights on the nature of innovation and creativity. In 2002 Dr. Silva founded and became the first President of the Molecular and Cellular Cognition Society, an international organization with more than 4000 members and with branches in North America, Asia and Europe. In 2006/2007 Dr. Silva served as Scientific Director of the Intramural Program of the National Institute of Mental Health. He has been awarded a number of prizes and distinctions, including most recently the Order of Prince Henry (2008), the highest award given by the Portuguese Government to a Private citizen, the Marco Canavezes Medal of Science (2008), and the Senior Roche Award For Translational Neuroscience (2009).

During his post-doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Nobel Laureate Dr. Susumu Tonegawa, Dr. Silva introduced transgenic mice to neuroscience studies of learning and memory and pioneered the field of Molecular and Cellular Cognition. His first independent position was with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, where his research group had a key role in the development of Molecular and Cellular Cognition into a mainstream neuroscience field. Besides Dr. Silva’s current work on molecular and cellular cognition, his laboratory also develops approaches for systematic studies of scientific practices, with the aim of providing validated, general principles for increasing the efficiency of science.

Michael S. Levine, Ph. D.

Gail Patrick Endowed Administrative Chair in Brain Research

Michael Levine is Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, the Associate Director for Education at the Brain Research Institute, and Professor in Residence at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. His research focuses on the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders, and consists of a multidisciplinary approach combining neurophysiological, morphological and molecular techniques.

Dr. Levine’s work has evolved into several major projects: 1) examining the physiological changes in mutant mouse models of Huntington's disease, 2) examining neuromodulation in the striatum as it pertains to Parkinson's disease and assessing new genetic mouse models of Parkinson's disease, and 3) examining cellular cortical electrophysiological and morphological abnormalities occurring in children suffering from intractable pediatric epilepsy.

David E. Krantz, MD, Ph.D.

Joanne and George Miller and Family Endowed Chair

David Krantz is an Associate Professor in Residence in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. An undergraduate at Brown University, he completed an MD/PhD in the Medical Scientist Training Program at UCLA in 1991, where he performed his dissertation on Drosophila eye development with Larry Zipursky. After a residency in psychiatry at UCLA, he was awarded a Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Fellowship for Physicians to investigate the regulation of vesicular neurotransmitter transporters in Robert Edwards' laboratory at UCSF.

Dr. Krantz research focuses on neurotransmitters and disease, and he is currently using Drosophila to study how changes in the function of neurotransmitter transporters may influence synaptic transmission and behavior. Dopamine, serotonin and glutamate have been linked in a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, and understanding of the molecules required for storing dopamine, serotonin and glutamate in brain cells is crucial in treatment of a variety of diseases. Dr. Krantz’ studies may help identify new treatments for illnesses linked to these neurotransmitters such as depression, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.