Public Release: 

Brain research poised to dramatically advance global society

Thought leaders call on Federal Government to fund the 'Decade of the mind'

George Mason University

FAIRFAX, Va., May 21, 2007 -- World-renowned scientists will convene at George Mason University on May 21 and 22 to call for a 10-year intellectual revolution - the "decade of the mind." The proceedings that will be published after this historic gathering will make the case for a $4 billion public research initiative dedicated to reaching the next level of understanding the human brain--the yet-to-be-discovered inner workings of the mind. The symposium also will outline the dramatic implications the decade will have on the global economy and health care.

"We are at the 'tipping point' of making enormous advances in public health, particularly in managing diseases that affect the mind, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, autism and schizophrenia," said Jim Olds, director of Mason's Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. "We at Mason are honored to be hosting this gathering of the world's leading researchers in brain study who together will outline the vision for the 'Decade of the Mind' that we will present to federal policymakers."

The two-day symposium will include nine sessions, each featuring one aspect of brain research, and will be moderated by scientists from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. The symposium will be anchored by a plenary session including the nine panelists. Moderated by New York Times science writer George Johnson, the session will provide an open forum for the scientists to discuss their groundbreaking research in areas such as neuroscience, neurobiology, computer science, psychology, robotics and economics. The panel will also explain the urgent need to continue the study of the human mind and the benefits this research could bring to society.

"It is our intention to cover a lot of ground in two days because we need to capture the magnitude of the impact of what we are proposing to Congress," said Olds. "A 10-year focus to bring the enormous promise of brain research will launch an intellectual revolution here and throughout the world, with lasting impacts on society."

In the United States today, more than five million people are living with Alzheimer's disease according to the Alzheimer's Association. The number of people affected by this ultimately fatal disease will only increase over the next decade as early onset Alzheimer's begins to affect the baby boomer generation.

Today, one in 17 Americans suffer from a serious mental illness, the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people 15 to 44 years old, according to the National Institute on Mental Health. New brain research during the initiative, coupled with advances in MRI technology and other non-invasive research tools, will allow scientists to better understand what causes these illnesses and how to manage or cure them.

This initiative also could help thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq more quickly and easily recover from brain injuries caused during combat, especially by improvised explosive devices.

Further research could allow advances in robotics and artificial intelligence that would make most future military vehicles - and aircraft - operate unmanned and autonomously, thereby saving thousands of lives during combat operations.

"The economic impact of the 'Decade of the Mind' will be felt in all levels of society," said Olds. "By translating our knowledge of the human mind to building more intelligent machines and computer applications, we can improve the welfare of millions of people worldwide."

The groundwork for this initiative was laid during the "Decade of the Brain," declared by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. It produced immense advances in brain research, including the development of MRI scanners and progress in the understanding of Alzheimer's disease and mental illness. Using these advances as a basis for further exploration into the human mind, this new decade would provide the nation's scientific community the opportunity to understand more about the mind than ever before and tackle some of society's most pressing challenges.

###

Decade of the Mind symposium presenters include: Marcus Raichle, MD, Washington University (St. Louis) School of Medicine; Nancy Kanwisher, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; John Holland, PhD, University of Michigan; Dharmendra Modha, PhD, IBM; Giulio Tononi, MD, PhD, University of Wisconsin; George A. Bekey, PhD, University of Southern California; Gordon Shepherd, PhD, Yale University; Vernon Smith, PhD, George Mason University, Nobel Laureate; and George Johnson, New York Times science writer, plenary session moderator.

For more information about the Decade of the Mind symposium, visit http://krasnow.gmu.edu/decade.

About the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study

The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study seeks to expand understanding of mind, brain and intelligence by conducting research at the intersection of the separate fields of cognitive psychology, neurobiology and the computer-driven study of artificial intelligence and complex adaptive systems. These separate disciplines increasingly overlap and promise progressively deeper insight into human thought processes. The institute also examines how new insights from cognitive science research can be applied for human benefit in the areas of mental health, neurological disease, education and computer design.

About George Mason University

George Mason University, located in the heart of Northern Virginia's technology corridor near Washington, D.C., is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, information technology, biotechnology and health care, Mason prepares its alumni to succeed in the workforce and meet the needs of the region and the world. Mason professors conduct groundbreaking research in areas such as cancer, climate change, information technology and the biosciences, and Mason's Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Its School of Law is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 50 law schools in the United States.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.