What is Brainstorm?
The Mind Science BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition™ is an innovative event connecting early-career neuroscience researchers with the capital they need to fund their research. Scientists pitch their ideas in groundbreaking neuroscience to an audience of Mind Science supporters, who then cast votes to award the first prize of a $30,000 Tom Slick Research Award in Consciousness, or runners up awards of $15,000.
Presenting the 2021 Winner and Finalists (l to r): Zulkayda Mamat, (Finalist); Dr. Ben Rein (Winner); Dr. Vera Ludwig (Finalist)
Why is Brainstorm Needed?
The BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition™ is the latest way in which Mind Science grants fund early-career researchers. Using a model that teams young investigators with senior principal investigators in powerful labs to work on pilot studies, Mind Science support makes critical investments in the development of pilot data, leading to greater funding opportunities, while early-career researchers hone their skills in translating complex neuroscience for a general audience. Mind Science funding has also supported prestigious global neuroscientific conferences, in addition to funding its own conferences for both neuroscientists and the general public.
Brainstorm Winners are Making a Difference
BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition™ winners and finalists are making significant advancements in the health and well-being of humankind through their research in areas that include: memory control, lucid dreaming, and cognitive resiliency in children raised in poverty.
Field of Study: NEUROBIOLOGY OF MOTIVATED BEHAVIOR
Why exactly does “absence make the heart grow fonder?” The winning team of researchers Merridee Lefner and Matthew Wanat (The University of Texas at San Antonio) are analyzing the neurobiology of motivated behavior. How does dopamine work in influencing our responses to rewards and avoiding negative outcomes? If we wait longer for something we desire, do we want it more and if so, why?
Field of Study: COGNITIVE RESILIENCY
The winning team of researchers Laurie Cutting, Stephanie Del Tufo, and Tin Nguyen (Vanderbilt University) want to know what creates resiliency in children raised in poverty. Graduate student Tin Nguyen’s pitch sought to provide a deeper understanding of the relationships between resilience, brain structure, and enriching home reading environments in children subject to adversity or poverty. Understanding what makes children resilient can be a first step towards mitigating the negative impacts of childhood poverty.
Field of Study: MEMORY CONTROL
The winning research team of Subbulakshmi Sankarasubramanian and Michael Anderson (University of Cambridge) want to know if we can suppress traumatic memories that cause emotional pain. They propose the use of non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation to understand the functional mechanisms that are damaged in traumatic brain injury. By studying the brain’s protective shield, they hope to develop treatment methods that will improve an individual’s ability to inhibit, suppress, and forget when needed; and add to the scientific understanding of the brain’s regulation of consciousness.
Neuroscientists on the impact of Brainstorm
“Winning Brainstorm gave me the power of pursuing what I knew was an ambitious scientific pursuit – I would have been forced to ’settle’ for a less ambitious project, if I did not have a guaranteed source of funding for my fourth year of graduate school, otherwise.”
Subbulakshmi “Subbu” Sankarasubramanian, Graduate Student, Cambridge University, 2018 BrainStorm winner
“Subbu’s BrainStorm project that Mind Science funded is paused at the moment, but will resume as soon as our lockdown lifts. Frankly, if it wasn’t for you guys, her career would be killed by this situation—because your funding will allow her to extend by enough time to actually finish the project. I cannot express how grateful I am for your role in helping to save this brilliant young scientist’s future.”
Michael Anderson, PhD, Principal Investigator at Memory Control Lab, Cambridge University
“BrainStorm is truly different from the other processes: it asks the researchers to be able to convey their work and knowledge to the general population, never forgetting that the ultimate goal of research is the progress of humankind. Also, it is open to young scientists, who are often left out and not admitted to competitive grants.”
Lorenzo Ciccione, Graduate Student, Collège de France, 2020 BrainStorm finalist
“I really enjoyed participating in BrainStorm because it helped me figure out how to better communicate my research to the lay public. In fact, I showed my application to my family and I think it was the first time they really understood the science behind what I do. I believe the emphasis Mind Science places on public dissemination of scientific knowledge is invaluable.”
Merridee Lefner, Graduate Student, The University of Texas at San Antonio, 2020 BrainStorm winner
“Through BrainStorm we were equipped with a substantial push to draw community attention to how childrens’ brains could be key to resilience, as well as to substantiate and showcase these claims to provide crucial insights for future practical and policymaking strategies. Preliminary findings emerged from the Mind Science partnership and community-motivated interests have led to additional funding from the NICHD, all of which now enable to us expand the scope of our research mission to evaluate how shared book reading, between parents/caregivers and children, can promote academic resilience by tapping their prefrontal cortex, in the face of socioeconomic adversity.”
Tin Nguyen, Graduate Student, Vanderbilt University, 2019 BrainStorm winner
“The BrainStorm process is special in many ways, including its focus on young scientists, offering regular support and communication throughout, and especially in its prioritization of scientific communication skills. BrainStorm helped me to realize the importance of centering my communication around what I find to be at the core of research, genuine passion and excitement, in hopes that doing so will interest and inspire others.”
Amber Hopkins, Graduate Student, Chapman University, 2020 BrainStorm finalist
“The BrainStorm competition is quite different from the events we typically attend as scientists. We are not used to directly competing with others or being judged by a lay audience. It was a good exercise to think about the concrete applications of our work and ways to interest people outside of our field of research. “
Vincent Taschereau-Dumouchel, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California Los Angeles, 2019 BrainStorm finalist
“Being able to participate and compete as an undergrad alongside researchers with advanced degrees was a wonderfully validating experience. It has had a lasting impact on my confidence that transcends us not winning the grand prize.”
Michael Greenberg, Graduate Student, Bard College, 2019 BrainStorm finalist