neuroscience pitch competition™

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.

The funding helps early-career researchers teamed with senior principal investigators in powerful labs to work on pilot studies that will help them obtain grants for further research, while honing their skills in translating complex neuroscience for a general audience.

PLEASE NOTE:  Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are making plans for a virtual Competition in the fall of 2021. Details will be released in the coming months. 


Read more about our 2020 Competition here,and see images from previous competitions below. 

Are you a neuroscientist studying the nature of consciousness? Click here to learn more about how to apply for funding and for your opportunity to present at BrainStorm 2021!  

Brainstorm 2020 Gallery

Merridee Lefner

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?


Lorenzo Ciccione

Lorenzo Ciccione (Collège de France, PSL University) and Stanislas Dehaene (Collège de France) are examining how our brains extract information from plots and charts. Scientists have discovered many people do not understand complex data visualizations. Uncovering how the brain extracts meaning from graphically depicted data will help the team discover ways to make graphs easier to understand.

Amber Hopkins

Amber Hopkins and Aaron Schurger (Chapman University) and Tian Lan (California Institute of Technology) are researching intentional binding, or how the brain perceives action and its sensory outcome as being much closer together in time. Understanding this mechanism can help explain how our brains process experiences and translates them into our feelings of authorship over intentional actions and their external consequences.

Brainstorm 2019 Gallery

Tin Nguyen

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. 

Michael Greenberg

The research team of Michael Greenberg and Justin Hulbert (Bard Collegewants to know if it is possible to “hack” your brain using mindfulness meditation. Undergraduate student Michael Greenberg’s pitch presented a study proposing that the focus on breathing in a certain way in mindfulness meditation naturally entrains the heart in such a way as to promote greater self-control and autonomy by enhancing connectivity in the brain. The research design has the advantage of easily used and highly accessible internet-based delivery of the mindfulness intervention.

Vincent Taschereau-Dumouchel

The research team of Vincent Taschereau-Dumouchel and Hakwan Lau (University of California Los Angeles) look to determine if virtual reality can be used as a treatment for anxiety disorders like OCD. Early career researcher Vincent Taschereau-Dumouchel’s pitch addressed an important and unresolved question about the nature of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. This study lays the groundwork for a novel therapeutic method for treating anxiety disorders by subconsciously rewarding desired brain activity without exposure to a feared stimulus, as in current exposure-based therapies.

Subbulakshmi Sankarasubramanian

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.


Ken Paller

Researcher Ken Paller (Northwestern University) looks to determine if we can establish real-time, two-way communication with lucid dreamers. Paller’s research seeks to uncover the mysteries of the lucid dream state (lucid dreamers are aware that they are dreaming) by establishing two-way communication between an experimenter, issuing softly spoken questions, and the dreamer, communicating with novel codes that are based on specific eye-movements patterns. If successful, this work could give the topic of lucid dreaming a solid scientific foundation and deepen our understanding of human consciousness.


David Linden

The research team of David Linden and Julia Brill (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) seek to discover how cold temperatures protect the brain in oxygen-deprived conditions like cold-water drownings or cardiac surgeries that necessitate stopping the heart. Scientists do not know exactly how extreme cold changes the structure of the brain, or how connections between brain neurons – the synapses – are impacted under these extreme conditions. To answer these questions, researchers propose imaging synaptic connections in the living mouse brain before, during, and after severe cooling via time-lapsed videos, combined with a procedure to chill and rewarm the mice safely.

thank you to our 2018 Sponsors!

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors

Additional Underwriting

Additional Underwriting

Brown Foundation

Muriel F. Siebert Foundation

Joan Cheever & Dennis Quinn

Frost Bank

William Knox Holt Foundation

The Smothers Foundation

Cina Forgason

Helen K. Groves

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