Last month I attended an ambitious, inspiring conference in Boston called "Next Frontier of the Brain: Imagining the Next Decade of Neuroscience Research & Development." Over three days, we heard more than 20 hours of lectures, advocacy, and discussion about how the science—and the technology supporting it—have reached a point of great promise. Now what's needed is a massive push to find good therapies for people. See for yourself: Videos of the sessions and one-on-one interviews with some of the researchers are now posted on the Science Network's site.
At the forum, held in Boston May 23–25, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and longtime advocate Garen Staglin brought together more than 300 people doing brain research, developing biotech and drug treatments, treating patients, advocating for patients and families, and working the political aisles. "If we take away one idea from this event, I hope it's the idea of the things we need to do to better take care of the people we love," Kennedy said. "The time is now." Here's Kennedy's call to action (26 min):
The conference was the first public event by the One Mind for Research campaign, whose goal is "to significantly reduce the U.S. burden of disability due to brain disorders." Steven Hyman, outgoing provost of Harvard and a Dana Alliance member, coordinated the science presenters; they and other researchers created a blueprint of research goals, released at the event: "A Ten-Year Plan for Neuroscience: From Molecules to Brain Health" (PDF). The first part of the document describes where we stand, why now is the right time to push, and what we should aim for in general. The second part has specific (and often technical) goals in six areas:
- Molecules, cells, and synapses
- Neural circuits
- Development, plasticity, and repair
- Behavioral, cognitive, and systems neuroscience
- Neurobiology of disease
- Clinical neuroscience
The second part is a "work-in-progress," intended to change as scientists and funders discuss the ideas, and lead to specific scientific proposals. As Dr. Hyman says in the introduction, "It is time for investment and a concerted effort. The cost of inaction would prove staggering." Here's Dr. Hyman's introduction on the first day (38 min):
I'll have a lot more to say about the conference over the next few weeks, but first I want to watch the videos. The conference flew by, but the 20 hours of science were packed with valuable information and I don’t want to overlook anything.