The Challenge of Understanding Human Brain Function: The Role of imaging in the BRAIN Project


Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR)
McKnight Presidential Chair Professor
Depts. of Radiology, Neurosciences and Medicine
University of Minnesota

14:30 – 15:15
Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Silver Room



BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative is a concerted research effort undertaken in the United States aimed at supporting development and application of new tools and technologies for revolutionizing our understanding of the brain. It was launched following the momentum of the Human Connectome Project (HCP), an ambitious effort supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA. Both initiatives focus on mapping neural circuits, ultimately for understanding the complexity of the human brain in achieving diverse array of behaviors, perceptions, thoughts, and emotions. HCP aims to generate a comprehensive description of the connections among gray matter location in the human brain at the scale of ~1 cubic mm, suing magnetic resonance (MR) techniques; it has achieved human brain images with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution. The ambitions in the BRAIN initiative is to surpass these substantially, and supplemented with animal models studies, to reach organizational scales beyond our reach with current technologies.


Kamil Ugurbil currently holds the McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair Professorship in Radiology, Neurosciences, and Medicine and is the Director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota. Prof. Ugurbil was educated at Robert Academy, Istanbul (high school) and Columbia University, New York, N.Y. After completing his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in physics, and chemical physics, respectively, at Columbia, he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1977, and subsequently returned to Columbia as a faculty member in 1979. He moved to the University of Minnesota in 1982 where his research in magnetic resonance led to the evolution of his laboratory into an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary research center, the CMRR. The work that introduced magnetic resonance imaging of neuronal activity in the human brain (known as fMRI) was accomplished independently and simultaneously in two laboratories, one of which was Ugurbil’s in CMRR. Since then, his focus has been on development of methods and instrumentation capable of obtaining high resolution and high accuracy functional information in the human brain, targeting neuronal organizations at the level of cortical columns and layers; this body of work has culminated in unique accomplishments such as the first time imaging of orientation columns in the human primary visual cortex, as well as numerous new instrumentation and image acquisition approaches for functional and anatomical neuroimaging at very high magnetic fields.