Foundation News

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Thu, 04 Feb 2016

2016 Neuroscience Day

The Brain Research Foundation hosted the 16th Annual Neuroscience Day on Friday, January 22, 2016.  Neuroscience Day is an annual event sponsored by the Brain Research Foundation that introduces new, exciting research through poster presentations and lectures. This unique forum encourages scientific interaction among universities and gives the Chicago-area neuroscience community a chance to meet and share interests in an informal setting. Graduate Students and Postdocs sign up to present a poster with a chance to win $500. Along with poster presentations, the day is filled with highly renowned guest speakers.

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Thu, 29 Oct 2015

2015 Discovery Dinner

The Annual Discovery Dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 27, raised over $1.1 million for promising early-stage brain research. The Discovery Dinner host committee, with guest MC and CBS2 host Rob Johnson, will welcome and treat friends, donors and supporters to an evening of education and discussion and will honor curators of the local scientific community.

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Tue, 27 Jan 2015

Congratulations to the 2015 SIA Winners

Guoping Feng, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Disruption of the Shank3 gene in a primate model for studying ASD


Brain disorders represent a great societal burden but are among the least understood of all diseases; for psychiatric disorders in particular, the underlying pathologies are largely unknown and treatment is mostly ineffective. Many brain disorders have a genetic component, and advances in genomic technologies have led to the identification of many risk genes. Understanding how risk genes may cause or contribute to the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders requires studies of brain function in animal models with genetic alterations that mimic those of human patients. Current animal model studies are largely focused on mice, but mice are imperfect models for many aspects of human biology, particularly neuroscience, given the vast differences in brain and behavior between the two species. The difficulty of modeling complex brain functions and behaviors in mice is an important obstacle both to basic research and to the development of new treatments for human brain disorders. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop animal models that are more close humans in the brain structure and function. In this application, we propose to generate a marmoset (a small primate) model of autism by disrupting the Shank3 gene, which causes autism when mutated in humans. We will use this primate model to further our understanding of neurobiological basis of autism related behaviors. These studies may lead to the identification of novel disease mechanisms and neurobiological targets for drug development foe ASD. More generally, the proposed project, if successful, will establish the marmoset as a primate genetic model for the study of psychiatric disorders.

Kristen Harris, Ph.D.

University of Texas – Austin

Synaptome of a Memory

A longstanding question in neuroscience concerns the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory. Since synapses were first discovered as the sites of communication between neurons, scientists have thought that changes in their number or structure would be a likely substrate of memory. Although evidence has accumulated, proof of this hypothesis has been elusive. Addressing this question requires substantial improvement in understanding how the brain is wired, namely, the “connectome”. Ultimately, the connectome will contain a map of the location and type of every synapse in the brain. The synaptome of a memory, sensation, or behavior is quite different from the co nectome of a brain region because these experiences likely involve a subset of synapses distributed across different brain regions. Hence, to understand mechanisms, it is necessary to know which specific synapses were involved. Detecting synapses and their subcellular components requires the nanoscale resolution of serial section electron microscopy, an approach that has been pioneered in my laboratory. We propose new strategies that will for the first time, provide specific identification of the progression and ultrastructural consequences of activity-dependent synapse remodeling in a cellular mechanism of learning and memory, a crucial first step in defining the synaptome of a memory. Nothing like this has ever been done before and the findings are crucial not only to understand the basic neuroscience and development of learning and memory, but also to illuminate synaptic dysfunction in prominent disease states, such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Thomas Jessel, Ph.D.

Columbia University

The Functional Logic of Inhibitory Microcircuits

Collectively, these studies will provide crucial insights into the construction and function of inhibitory microcircuits controlling movement. Importantly, they will provide an essential foundation for interpreting behavioral experiments assessing the contribution of V1 and other inhibitory interneurons to locomotor or skilled forelimb reaching tasks, where descending and sensory feedback systems are essential24. Because many of the transcription factors identified here (e.g. Sp8, Nr4a2, and Lmo3 among others) are also expressed in inhibitory interneurons in the brain25-27, characterizing spinal interneuron diversity may prove useful for dissecting inhibitory circuits in other systems. Finally, given the emerging view that neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders result in part from dysfunction of inhibitory circuitry13, the studies outlined here should provide significant insight into the functional organization of inhibition in both development and disease.


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Fri, 09 Jan 2015

Lisa's Story

In October 1958, Margaret and Bill Fay noticed that their 10-month-old daughter Lisa was having small, involuntary tremors. As time passed, Lisa began having seizures which came more frequently and with increased intensity. This led the Fays on a long journey to find answers and treatments for their little girl.

In desperation, they took Lisa to various specialists around the country. That is when they met Dr. Frederic A. Gibbs at the University of Illinois. Dr. Gibbs was a leading neurologist involved in researching the causes, diagnoses and treatments of epilepsy.

The Fays finally found some hope and treatments for Lisa, but Bill quickly realized that there were only hypotheses about brain function, no facts. He understood that in order to understand pediatric epilepsy one needed to have answers as to how the entire brain functioned, not just focus on one area or one disease. Coincidentally, in 1953 Dr. Gibbs had just organized a group of doctors to form the beginning of what is now known as the Brain Research Foundation. Bill and his family decided to wholeheartedly support this Foundation, along with the Clinton E. Frank family. Both men were passionate about enlisting business leaders to join them in supporting their vision. Bill’s leadership was critical in creating a foundation that became one of the country’s oldest and most innovative organizations supporting brain research.

In 1982 bill retired from Smith Barney & Company as Executive Vice President. As Chairman Emeritus of the Brain Research Foundation, Bill remained dedicated to our mission and called into every board meeting. Bill enjoyed his retirement in the Village of Golf, Florida and claimed that his secret to staying young was swimming in his pool every day and playing bridge three times a week.

Lisa has a fulfilling job at a daycare facility and lives independently.

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Fri, 07 Feb 2014

Congratulations to our 2014 Scientific Innovations Award Winners!

Brain Research Foundation announces 2014 Scientific Innovations Awards (SIA) to fund groundbreaking work in Parkinson's, epilepsy, Hurler Syndrome and autism. Producing important findings in a short timeframe is the goal of this special grant program. The 2014 winners of the SIA are:

Christopher I. Moore, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience, Brown University

W. Mark Saltzman, Ph.D.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Yale University 

Anthony Zador, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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Wed, 15 Jan 2014

BRF Funded Scientists receives Presidential Early Career Award from President Obama

Brain Research Foundation funded scientist Dr. Young-Shin Kim was one of the 102 researchers named as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers by President Obama. 

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Mon, 13 Jan 2014

Neuroscience Day 2014 Puts Scientific Creativity Under The Spotlight

Brain Research Foundation convenes top area neuroscientists and students for seminars and competitive poster session

It is a staggering proposition to think about a scientist starting from square one to solve a major malady, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or dementia, that involves the human body’s least understood organ, the brain. How many hundreds and thousands of experiments and studies must be conducted? In what sequence should they be done? Who should collaborate on the research?  Equally daunting is the challenge to find original avenues for science following decades of work in a specific area.

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Thu, 14 Nov 2013

Brain Research Foundation Discovery Dinner Celebrates 60th Anniversary By Raising $1 Million With Help From Chicago Bear Gary Fencik

A dinner that celebrated 60 years of growth and dramatic scientific success received an assist from heralded retired Chicago Bear Gary Fencik. Guest speaker Fencik used his time at the podium to detail how many of his 1985 Super Bowl Bears teammates reveled in the sport but some now struggle with the physical and cognitive consequences. He concluded his remarks by joining a host of other supporters whose contributions pushed total proceeds for the event to just over $1 million.

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Thu, 20 Jun 2013

Congratulations to our 2013 Seed Grant Winners!

In 2013, the Brain Research Foundation Seed Grant Program funded critical research in 12 areas of neuroscience. Click on a topic below, or visit our Current Research page to learn more about the studies and how they’ll contribute to the field of neuroscience.

Since 1981 the Brain Research Foundation has awarded 582 Seed Grants for a total of $10.2 million in funding. To make a contribution to support neuroscience research today, please click on our donate link. To read about past studies, please visit our Research Archive.

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Mon, 03 Jun 2013

ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) Breakthrough Underscores Importance of Collaboration to Brain Research

As the result of a major breakthrough by researchers at Northwestern University's School of Medicine, researchers studying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, are now one step closer to unlocking the nature of ALS. The recent discovery, which for the first time identified a gene both in motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord affected by ALS, offers a glimpse of hope to those who currently suffer from the deadly disease which rapidly breaks down their bodies while leaving mental capacity intact.

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Fri, 19 Apr 2013

Brain Research Foundation to Promote Healthier Brains Through Exercise And Concussion Prevention at Prairie State Cycling Series

Foundation targets slowing cognitive decline via exercise and making riders of all ages safer through proper helmet use. 

Brain Research Foundation (BRF) and Prairie State Cycling Series announced that BRF will use the 2013 cycling series in the Chicago area to promote key educational initiatives around brain health. The series will be in eight locations or stages throughout the area over two weeks in July and is expected to draw substantial crowds of spectators and participants to the event.

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Tue, 19 Feb 2013

Brain Research Foundation's Annual Neuroscience Day Lectures Focus on Autism

Brain Research Foundation’s 13th Annual Neuroscience Day Draws Chicago-area Researchers Together To Discuss New Research Through Presentations and Lectures.

The 2013 Neuroscience Day hosted by the Brain Research Foundation (BRF) in late January was a great success with 50 researchers competing for a financial award in two categories and a full afternoon of lectures focused on autism, which notably included two former BRF Seed Grant winners.

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Mon, 28 Jan 2013

BRF Raised Over $650,000 for Research and Education at the 2012 Discovery Dinner

More than 250 guests attended the Brain Research Foundation’s Discovery Dinner at the Four Seasons on Monday, October 29th.  The annual dinner was chaired by BRF Trustees Suzanne M. Kopp-Moskow and John Mabie with their spouses Michael Moskow and Martha Mabie. Rob Johnson, BRF Trustee and CBS2 News Anchor, kept the evening lively and the audience engaged as Master of Ceremonies.

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Mon, 28 Jan 2013

Scientific Innovations Award Winners

In January 2013, the Brain Research Foundation announced the winners of its 2nd annual Scientific Innovations Award (SIA). The award was established to support ground-breaking research being done by distinguished investigators. The Foundation awarded two SIAs which are two-year grants totaling $150,000 each. The 2013 winners of the SIA are: 

Jean Hébert, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Brian Litt, M.D.
Department of Neurology
University of Pennsylvania 

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Mon, 28 Jan 2013

Seed Grant’s Worldwide Success: Advancing Science One Gene at a Time

Twenty years ago the BRF funded Dr. Kári Stefánsson’s research. Since then he has been advancing science one gene at a time. 

When I first read the article in the New York Times on a researcher from Iceland, the name, Kári Stefánsson, seemed familiar. So I wasn’t too surprised to find out that I knew the name because the BRF awarded Dr. Stefánsson several Fay/Frank Seed Grant Awards from 1982 to 1993...

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Thu, 27 Dec 2012

Brain Research Foundation Funded Researcher Awarded $6.7 Million

Dr. Ravi Allada Leads Investigation into Effects of Sleep Cycles on Age-Related Neurodegeneration

Using findings generated from research funded by a 2011 $40,000 Brain Research Foundation (BRF) seed grant, Dr. Ravi Allada was awarded a $6.7 million grant to continue work on the effects of circadian rhythms on neurodegeneration. “The data generated with the BRF Seed Grant now allows us to broaden our scope and examine the interaction between metabolic, circadian and aging timers relevant to processes such as age-related neurodegeneration,” stated Dr. Allada Department of Neurobiology Chair at Northwestern University. 

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Tue, 30 Oct 2012

Brain Research Foundation Discovery Dinner Panel Addresses the Risk of Cognitive Impairment

The Brain Research Foundation conducted an expert panel on delaying cognitive impairment which includes dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The distinguished participants are recognized experts on the subject and leaders in neurological science: 

James A. Mastrianni, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Chicago 
Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurological Sciences and Behavioral Sciences at Rush University
Robert J. Vassar, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern University

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Mon, 29 Oct 2012

Brain Research Foundation Announces 2012 Frederic A. Gibbs Discovery Award Recipients

Merrick Venture's Michael W. Ferro, Jr. 
Honored for Philanthropic Leadership
Washington University's David M. Holtzman, M.D. 
Honored for Community Leadership

The Brain Research Foundation (BRF) announced that the 2012 recipients of the Frederic A. Gibbs Discovery Award will be Michael W. Ferro Jr. and David M. Holtzman, M.D. Read More.

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Wed, 17 Oct 2012

BRF Expands Funding for Critical Early Stage Research On Brain And Neurological Disorders To National Institutions

Brain Research Foundation (BRF), a leading grant-making organization supporting new science that explores how the brain works, today announced that it has expanded its seed grant funding nationally. “The funding obstacles to novel research exist beyond geographic boundaries,” stated Nathan Hansen, President of the BRF Board of Trustees. Read More.

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Thu, 13 Sep 2012

Associate Board Event Moves BRF Forward

One way the Associate Board generates awareness and support is through its annual event Rockin’ on the River. Thanks to the incredible enthusiasm, effort and generosity of the event’s sponsors, contributors and attendees, the BRF Associate Board is pleased to report that its recent fundraising event was a great success! Almost $60,000 was raised to help support the mission of the Brain Research Foundation.

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Thu, 07 Jun 2012

Brain Research Foundation Announces Grant To Study Concussive Events Among Grade School Children

$30,000 grant to fund research at Institute for Sports Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

The Brain Research Foundation (BRF) announced it will fund research that aims to improve pediatricians’ ability to evaluate and manage sports-related concussive injuries among young children, and guide future research regarding the diagnosis, treatment and long term effects of these events. Read More.

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Thu, 10 May 2012

Congratulations to our 2012 Seed Grant Winners!

In 2012, the Brain Research Foundation Seed Grant Program funded critical research in 10 areas of neuroscience. Visit our Current Research page to learn more about the studies and how they’ll contribute to the field of neuroscience.

Since 1981 the Brain Research Foundation has awarded 599 Seed Grants for a total of $9.6 million in funding.  To make a contribution to support neuroscience research today, please click on our donate link.

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Tue, 10 Apr 2012

White Sox Tickets are Sold Out!

We are pleased to announce that the Associate Board of the Brain Research Foundation has sold out 600 tickets for their Annual White Sox Event. The Chicago White Sox will play the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, May 22nd at US Cellular Field. Proceeds from these tickets will benefit the Brain Research Foundation.

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Fri, 02 Mar 2012

Scientific Innovations Award Winner

The Brain Research Foundation has expanded our funding to support even more ground-breaking research by funding $150,000 total to our new Scientific Innovations Award winner. The 2012 winner of the SIA is:

W. Martin Usrey, Ph.D.
Center for Neuroscience
University of California Davis

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Wed, 02 Nov 2011

BRF Annual Discovery Dinner Raises Over $728,000 for Brain Research and Education

Over 300 supporters attended the Brain Research Foundation's Annual Discovery Dinner on November 1 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.  The dinner raised over $728,000 for brain research and education. The event was co-hosted by Suzanne Kopp-Moskow and Michael Moskow, Linda and Tom Heagy and Millie Rosenbloom Simon and John Simon. Virginia and Norman Bobins and Aon Corporation were honored with Frederick A. Gibbs Discovery Awards.

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Wed, 02 Nov 2011

The Brain Research Foundation Announces $50,000 Educational Grant to Fund Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Sports Concussion Initiative

The Brain Research Foundation (BRF) announced at its annual Gala Dinner Tuesday night that it will provide a $50,000 grant to fund an initiative designed to improve the Chicago Public Schools’ ability to respond to sports-related head injuries. 

Click here to read the full story.

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Thu, 19 May 2011

Large Population of Undiagnosed Autism in General Population According to New Brain Research Foundation Study

Brain Research Foundation calls for greater investment in early stage autism research. Read what Executive Director Terre Constantine, and Board Member Bennett Leventhal have to say about the study. 

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Mon, 25 Oct 2010

Panel on Youth Sports Related Brain Injuries at November 1 Discovery Dinner

On November 1, a panel of 5 noted experts in their fields will discuss sports related brain injuries in youth at the BRF's Discovery Dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Please save the date on your calendar and make plans to join us.

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Tue, 12 Oct 2010

BRF Seed Grants Lead to New Funding For Critical Neuroscience Research

The Brain Research Foundation (BRF) announced today that two of its Seed Grant recipients — David J.Freedman, Ph.D. of the University of Chicago and Dane M. Chetkovich, M.D., Ph.D. of Northwestern University — have segued their work into new and greater funding for additional research that may help unravel some of the many mysteries of the brain.

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Mon, 11 Oct 2010

WBEZ Tribute Story

Executive Director Terre Sharma was interviewed for a October 11th WBEZ public radio story on long-term Board Member Gwill Newman in a tribute story. Ms. Newman died August 30th. Hear the story by clicking here.

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Thu, 07 Oct 2010

$1.5 million endowment gift to BRF in the news

The Brain Research Foundation (BRF) and The Pioneer Fund announced a $1.5 million endowment to study atypical dementia.

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Thu, 02 Sep 2010

In Memory

Gwill L. Newman

Brain Research Foundation mourns the loss of its first female President and Chairman, Gwill L. Newman.  She died August 30 in New Mexico after an extended illness.

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Tue, 24 Aug 2010

New NFL Rule

The National Football League has expanded its rules to prevent “defenseless” players from being hit in the head by an opponent and referees will whistle dead any play in which a player loses his helmet on the field.

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Fri, 04 Jun 2010

2010 Seed Grant Recipient Featured in Science News Article

2010 Seed Grant Awardee Dr. Jaime Grutzendler, Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, is featured in a May 2010 Science News article. The article is titled "Tiny Blood Vessels in Brain Spit to Survive." Dr. Grutzendler was awarded a 2010 Seed Grant to continue his studies of this fascinating research.

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Fri, 26 Feb 2010

2010 Winter Newsletter

In this issue: Expanding the BRF - a Combination for the Future, Dear Friends, BRF Scientific Review Committee, BRF Associate Board, and New BRF Logo and Website.

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Mon, 11 Jan 2010

Merger Announcement

The Brain Research Foundation (BRF), the oldest organization dedicated to funding research across the entire spectrum of brain disorders, today announced its merger with the Children’s Brain Research Foundation (CBRF), an action aimed at bolstering the BRF’s already strong focus on pediatric brain health and research.

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Mon, 01 May 2006

Physiology of Motion Perception

The great Boston Red Sox hitter Ted Williams' secret weapon was not his strength or his speed — it was his dynamic acuity. Williams' eyesight was so sharp he was able to read the label stamped on a baseball as it was hurtling toward him.

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Mon, 02 May 2005

Identifying the Genetic Origin of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling psychiatric disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population worldwide. More than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness in a given year. Despite extensive studies, the causes of schizophrenia have yet to be determined.

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Neuroscience Day 2015

Brain Research Foundation
Presents the
15th Annual Neuroscience Day
Attention: Please Forward to Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Fellows and other Neuroscientists The 15th Annual Neuroscience Day will be held at the Lurie Medical Research Center
of Northwestern University
(303 E. Superior Street, Chicago)
Friday, January 23, 2015 9:00 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. 9-11:30am - Poster Presentations Graduate Students and Postdocs sign up to present a poster with a chance to win $500
11:30am-4pm – Lectures
Jason MacLean, Ph.D., University of Chicago
Christopher Moore, Ph.D., Brown University
Gordon Shepherd, Ph.D., Northwestern University
Anthony Zador., Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
(Order of speakers TBD)
To learn more details about Neuroscience Day Posters and Lectures,
Please forward this announcement on to any neuroscientists that might be interested in presenting or attending. Send questions to

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Congratulations to our 2011 Seed Grant Winners!

In 2011, the Brain Research Foundation Seed Grant Program funded critical research in 18 areas of neuroscience. Visit our Current Research page to learn more about the studies and how they’ll contribute to the field of neuroscience.

Since 1981 the Brain Research Foundation has awarded 589 Seed Grants for a total of $9.2 million in funding.  To make a contribution to support neuroscience research today, please click on our donate link.

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2011 Annual Discovery Dinner Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Please join us at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago on November 1st 2011, when the Frederic Gibbs Discovery Award from the Brain Research Foundation will be awarded to:

Virginia and Norman Bobins, for Philanthropic Leadership and
Aon Corporation, represented by its President and CEO Greg Case for Community Service.

Dr. Frederic Gibbs helped found the Brain Research Foundation in 1953. This award honors companies and individuals that understand the need for neuroscience research and education.

Please join us at the dinner. Reception begins at 6:00 pm followed by dinner at 7:00 pm.

To make a reservation or purchase a table, Click Here.

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