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Advancing the BRAIN Initiative


The White House BRAIN initiative promises to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain by supporting development of dynamic approaches for investigating brain function. Forging a synergistic partnership with the University of Utah, the National Science Foundation awarded $2.77 million in BRAIN Initiative grants to neuroscience faculty in 2015.

Founded in 2014, the U of U's Neuroscience Initiative is reinforcing this partnership by continuing to build an infrastructure to spark and support innovative, interdisciplinary research that meets BRAIN Initiative goals. The BRAIN Initiative projects are:

Cracking the Olfactory Code

Olfactory neurons

The mammalian sense of smell is one of the most complex sensory systems. This interdisciplinary collaboration between six institutions aims to understand how the brain detects, encodes, and extracts meaning from odors.

Analysis of the Mammalian Olfactory Code - $766,000

  • Matt Wachowiak, Ph.D., Neurobiology and Anatomy

Deep Brain Imaging to Better Understand Learning and Memory

Rajesh Menon
Rajesh Menon, Ph.D.

Interrogating the fundamental basis of information processing and memory has remained largely inaccessible due to a lack of non-invasive tools. This project aims to develop innovative, inexpensive technologies to visualize the inner workings of deep neural networks and their connections at high resolution in behaving animals.

Imaging synaptic activity deep in the brain using super-resolution cannula microscopy- $920,000

  • Rajesh Menon, Ph.D., Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Erik Jorgensen, Ph.D., Biology
  • Jason Shepherd, Ph.D., Neurobiology and Anatomy

New Model for Investigating Mechanisms of Behavior

TDanionella translucida

No bigger than the tip of your finger, the tropical fish Danionella translucida is optically transparent throughout life, offering scientists a window into the brain. This project will adapt sophisticated genetic, optical, and molecular techniques for use in this new model species to explore how brain activity creates complex behaviors.

Danionella translucida: A New Fish Model for Systems Neuroscience - $300,000

  • Adam Douglass, Ph.D., Neurobiology and Anatomy

A Prosthetic Arm that Moves and Feels

Greg Clark
Greg Clark, Ph.D.

The team aims to create and test hand and arm prostheses that can move and feel sensation nearly as well as their biological counterparts. The work is made possible by the Utah array, a neural interface technology developed at the University of Utah.

Sensory-Motor Integration via Recording and Stimulating Arm Nerves - $785,615

  • David Warren, Ph.D.,Bioengineering
  • Douglas Hutchinson, M.D.,Orthopaedics
  • Greg Clark, Ph.D.,Bioengineering