Everyone knows that the brain is the most important part of the human anatomy. Every movement, every thought, from the slight tick on the tip of one’s lips to the superhuman speed and stamina of athletes — everything is governed and controlled by the brain. Yet, for all its prominence being the center of all our body’s processes, there is still a lot that humans do not know about the brain. That is why research centers have been dedicated to studying and map the human brain, and recently Caltech joined the fray in a new initiative, with the help of financial backing from entrepreneurs and philanthropists Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo.
Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo: Online Entertainment Power Couple
Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo are husband and wife, and together they are moguls in the field of online entertainment. They have made quite a fortune in creating games, and they decided to give back to humanity in the form of offering grants to institutions that are willing to conduct research in fields that they believe will make a difference.
One of these fields is neuroscience, a field of science dedicated to the study of the nervous system. Neuroscience started out as a branch of biology, but later became a discipline that is considered to be tied closely to fields such as chemistry, medicine, and cognitive science.
It is a common mistake to think that neuroscience (or alternatively “neurobiology”) is a study dedicated to the brain. It actually is a host to a wide variety of subjects, including, but not limited to, the cellular structure, development, functional, and medical aspects, not only of the brain but the whole nervous system.
The Need to Advance Neuroscientific Research
Perhaps one could think that Chen and Luo’s interest in neuroscience stems from their entrepreneurial roots. Human behavior, which is attributed to brain function and psychology, is a major factor of study in video game development, specifically, ones that require the right amount of time investment and risk-reward ratio to keep the player “hooked.” However, the couple emphasized that it was more the draw of technology— that their involvement in the online entertainment industry had let them witness technological advances that can affect or even alter human perception and in turn observe its effects on human behavior — whether expected or emergent.
Caltech: A Worthy Institution for Launching a New $115M Neuroscience Research Center
They had been looking for a worthy institution for their grants to launch a “base;” a focused research center exclusively attending to the advancement of neuroscience. The couple has spent the last two years learning all they can about the subject, combing various universities and institutions across the globe. Of these, they chose the California Institute of Technology as their first ever benefactor.
More commonly known as “Caltech,” the institution was established in 1891 and has attracted influential scientists of the modern era ever since. It is known today as one of America’s most prestigious doctorate-granting university, with a strong emphasis on engineering and science. Chrissy Luo has stated that they chose Caltech as a partner not only for its reputation as a leading research center, but also because of its strong alignment with the principles of their own foundations and institute — that is, its being “focused on creating excellence and discovery.”
A New Era of Understanding
The initial plan for the $115 million grant is a new neuroscience initiative in Caltech consisting of five main divisions, namely, The T&C Chen Brain-Machine Interface Center, The T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience, The T&C Chen Center for Systems Neuroscience, The Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, and The Caltech Brain Imaging Center. These five departments will be headed by some of the top names in their respective fields, and will aim to advance our knowledge regarding mind-boggling questions such as what incorporates decision-making, human emotions, social behavior, and even something as fundamental and minute as how our neurons communicate.
“We have enjoyed the strong working relationship with Caltech and are firmly confident of this partnership,” Chrissy Luo had said.
And it seems Caltech’s arms are open as ever to the idea of breaking the frontiers of discovery.
Here is hoping that all their efforts lead to a new era of fruitful understanding— one that will not squander and try to bottle life and its processes as mere science, but as a genuine fascination that will aim to improve humanity’s quality of life as a whole.
Image Source: Canon vs Nikon at Wikimedia Commons