Peter L. Strick, PhD
Welcome to the Web site for the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. As you navigate the site, our focus will become clear: It’s all about the science. The formula is simple: Basic science leads to discoveries that lay the foundation for new treatments and cures for brain disorders. That is why the Brain Institute is organized to provide critical support for Pitt’s community of basic neuroscientists (more than 150 strong, and counting!) in their quest to unravel the mysteries of normal and abnormal brain function.
What makes us so certain that fundamental science is essential for finding effective new treatments and cures? Just look at any major neurological problem we face today—Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s, stroke, autism, cerebral palsy, or schizophrenia. We can detect these disorders, and we can describe their natural history of progression, but we can do little else. This situation has gone unchanged for more than 40 years, and without research at the most basic level we will be stuck without effective treatments and preventive measures 20 years from now. New treatments and cures won’t come until we lay the scientific foundation for them. Therefore, the overall strategy of the Brain Institute is to support the many centers of excellence that already exist at Pitt, and to create new centers, including the Live Like Lou Center for ALS Research, in areas where we can have great impact.
This summer, we added an exceptional leader to this venture. Nathan Urban (CAS 1991 and FAS 1998) is returning to Pitt, after a stellar tenure at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where he was Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences. Dr. Urban will continue his distinguished career in basic neuroscience, focusing on physiological and computational analysis of the function of neural circuits. I’m enormously pleased that he also will serve as Associate Director of the Brain Institute, as well as Pitt’s Vice Provost for Special Projects, supporting the development and promotion of University-wide strategic initiatives in neuroscience research and education. Dr. Urban’s experience at CMU, where he was founding director of the BrainHub initiative, will be especially valuable in supporting our goal of seamless interactions between CMU and Pitt. In addition, he has agreed to take over as the Pitt-side Co-Director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, the 20-year-old joint program that promotes collaboration between Pitt and CMU in cognitive neuroscience training and research. Dr. Urban will be a wonderful addition to the vast and highly talented neuroscience community at Pitt.
This Web site is designed to give you a sense of how much neuroscience research is underway here, and how the Brain Institute supports this work. If you have questions or comments, please let us know.