Since its inception 15 years ago, the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience has integrated neuroscience research across the campus and across disciplines.
"We are leading the way in a wide range of areas, from molecules to the mind," says Edward "Ted" Jones, the center's director. "People are looking to us for the latest advances in the field."
Those advances have included the discovery that people with depression make less of a certain family of proteins responsible for the growth and maintenance of nerve cells. Likewise, another team found that people who are experts at recognizing visual objects use their frontal lobes – an area involved in pattern recognition – as well as their visual cortex.
The center's success has allowed it to recruit future stars in neuroscience, Jones says. He points to two center researchers who earned the Presidential Early Career Awards: Martin Usrey, for his work in how neuronal responses emerge in the brain, and William DeBello, for his work in the molecular and cellular mechanism that contributes to adaptive behavior in the brain. In addition, Leah Krubitzer won a prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship for her research on the neocortex.
The center reflects the emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration at UC Davis, as evidenced at the Center for Mind and Brain, the M.I.N.D. Institute and the Imaging Research Center. Now, the campus is soon to unveil the Center for Vision Science.
"The new center is a way of getting the diversity of vision researchers and clinicians on campus working on common problems in a more formal way," explains Leo Chalupa, a School of Medicine vision researcher who is also chair of neurobiology, physiology and behavior in the College of Biological Sciences.
The new center is a natural extension of the school's Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, which has been nationally recognized for its expertise in vision science, Chalupa says.
In one recent study, Chalupa and his colleagues demonstrated that nerve cells in the retinas of elderly mice show an unexpected burst of growth, suggesting that if nerves of the eye can grow back, perhaps other brain cells can do the same.
Plans are to launch the vision science center by the end of this year with neuroscientist Marie Burns as its director. Burns said that one of her early priorities will be to foster expanded communication among researchers."When ideas are combined with new perspectives, truly cutting edge research is the result."