Director’s Blog I don’t know why or how April 25th, the day after Earth Day and the day before Save the Frogs Day (really), was named National DNA Day, but once again we have a reason to celebrate the basic language of biology. In fact, this has been a good year for DNA—that 3 billion base-pair long sequence of nucleotides which constitute the building blocks for the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in almost every human cell.
Director’s Blog Each year at this time, the Kavli Foundation announces its annual scientific prizes. In contrast to the Nobel Prizes, the Kavli Prizes cover three focal areas of science: astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. Fred Kavli, who died recently, described these prizes as recognizing those who work on “the biggest, the smallest, and the most complex.” This year’s awards in neuroscience, to Brenda Milner, John O’Keefe, and Marcus Raichle, continue the tradition of recognizing those who embrace complexity.
Director’s Blog In the years after Francis Crick and James Watson described the double helical structure of DNA, both men became interested in the brain. While Watson searched for the genetics of schizophrenia, Crick became intrigued by consciousness and brain structure.
Director’s Blog The physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson once noted, “New directions in science are launched by new tools much more often than by new concepts.” 1 This week marks the publication of a new tool that may alter the way we look at the brain. Karl Deisseroth and his colleagues at Stanford University have developed a method they call CLARITY. Yes, CLARITY is an acronym, for Clear Lipid-exchanged Anatomically Rigid Imaging/immunostaining-compatible Tissue hYdrogel.
Director’s Blog This is the time of March Madness, Daylight Savings Time, and what Emily Dickinson famously called the “month of expectation.” March is also Brain Awareness Month, an annual celebration with school visits, community lectures, and lab tours to introduce the public to the mind-blowing world of neuroscience. A list of Brain Awareness events can be found at http://www.dana.org/brainweek where you will also find that March 10 -16 is the peak for related public events around the world. Since NIMH began focusing on mental disorders as brain disorders nearly two decades ago, educating people about the brain has been a priority for us.
Director’s Blog As in past years, once again I venture to suggest a “top 10” list for NIMH based on the most notable discoveries and events of the past 12 months. This year several of the major breakthroughs were not funded by NIMH and not directly focused on mental disorders, but they suggested new vistas for biology that will almost certainly change the way we understand serious mental illness and neurodevelopmental disorders.