Big data and the brain

Kavli Neuroscience Institute integrates engineering, neuroscience and big-data analytics

The Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute at Johns Hopkins University, launched in early 2016, brings an interdisciplinary group of researchers together to investigate the workings of the brain. Funded by a joint $20 million commitment by the Kavli Foundation and Johns Hopkins, the institute integrates neuroscience, engineering, and data science to understand the relationship between the brain and behavior.

Experimental tools in neuroscience are yielding larger and more complex data sets than ever before, but the ability of neuroscientists to manage and mine these data sets effectively has lagged behind, as has their ability to model the behavior of cells and circuits in the brain. The new institute aims to change that by drawing on the university's expertise in big-data analytics.

The Kavli Foundation's mission is to advance science for the benefit of humanity, promote public under­standing of scientific research, and support scientists. "This new institute will bring together some of the world's finest researchers in neuroscience in a fresh, dynamic way that is aimed at advancing our understanding of the relationship between the brain and behavior," says Robert W. Conn, Kavli's president and CEO. "This kind of research is essential to finding new approaches to better understand the mind and protecting it from disorders ranging from depression to Alzheimer's."

The 45 initial members of the institute—including director¬†Richard L. Huganir, professor and director of the Department of Neuroscience at the School of Medicine, and co-director¬†Michael I. Miller, professor of biomedical engineering—are drawn from 14 different Johns Hopkins departments and the Applied Physics Laboratory.