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RIC Research Scientist Receives Prestigious $9 Million NIH Grant; Will Collaborate With 'Dream Team' Of Harvard, MIT In Advanced Brain Research

CHICAGO, Oct. 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In a move to dramatically accelerate brain research — and possible cures for autism, Parkinson's and stroke — the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today awarded Konrad Kording, Ph.D., research scientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), a $9 million, five-year NIH Transformative Research Award to build a non-invasive, molecular-biologic tool to record, measure and study how the brain really works.

The award is part of NIH's "High Risk-High Reward" program and is one of just 10 Transformative Research grants awarded to scientists who propose highly-innovative approaches to major challenges facing the biomedical research community.

Kording, a neuroscientist, lead researcher at RIC and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, will collaborate with a national team of scientists that include the highly-regarded Harvard microbiologist George Church and MIT neuroscientist Ed Boyden.

"NIH is excited to continue support of visionary investigators, among all career stages, pursuing science with the potential to transform scientific fields and accelerate the translation of scientific research into improved health, through the Common Fund's High Risk-High Reward Research Program," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "This program allows researchers to propose highly creative research projects across a broad range of biomedical research areas, that involve inherent risk, but have the potential for high-rewards."        

If successful, the research would allow scientists to collect simultaneously recordings of activities from all the nerve cells in the whole mouse brain. Doing so will increase the capture of this data by 100,000-fold, change profoundly how the brain is studied and accelerate efforts to understand and cure all sorts of brain diseases and conditions. The NIH-funded effort will work in parallel with President Obama's recently-announced BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative. That $100 million program seeks to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

Brain Cells that Record Own Activity

Currently, brain activity in mice is measured using a series of brain-implanted electrode-needles that transmit a tiny portion of neural activity to a recorder, amplifier, digitizer and computer. Kording's proposed solution would equip scientists to study the activity of all 100 million nerve cells at the same time — and do so biologically, without the use of machines to record it. 

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