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Building a Center of Excellence in Neuroscience Research

 

Boys Town West Hospital

Saturday, March 27, 2021

​​With the opening of The Institute for Human Neuroscience, Boys Town National Research Hospital is setting the pace for neuroscience research.

Unlike an already existing research center, the faculty at the Institute for Human Neuroscience had lots of input into creating this unique new workspace. They worked with the architects to make the building fit their vision for the best way to have patients and instruments all in the same spaces. Part of the plan was to develop a lab that would allow epilepsy patients to have a MEG and an MRI all in one visit. And having a research institute directly onsite means translating research to improve care can happen at a faster rate and help change the way America cares for children and families, everywhere.

“One of the main reasons we came to Boys Town was the opportunity to build an incredible institute in an amazing environment," said Wilson. “As the only site in the world with two next-generation MEG Neo systems, we'll have twice the capacity for major discoveries in pediatric neuroscience and neurotherapeutics and be able to directly impact the lives of children and families. Boys Town has the infrastructure and a history of doing things like this and we are excited to carry on this critical mission."

Also unique to this field of study is the work environment at Boys Town. When the Institute is fully operational it will house nine to ten different laboratories and between 100 to 120 researchers, all under one roof. Each of these labs will focus on different sub-areas of human neuroscience using MRI, MEG, and other state-of-the-art methods.

“All of us are different, we're experts in different things, and the niche that we know better than anything else is unique amongst all of us. We're excited to work in such a collaborative environment," noted Wilson. “We think it's going to give rise to a lot of great science that wouldn't have otherwise occurred."

Six Neuroscience Research Labs…and Growing

The breadth of study available from the moment the Institute opens will be impressive. With six key labs already conducting research on Boys Town campus with room to grow.

The Dynamic Imaging of Cognition & Neuromodulation (DICoN) Laboratoryv uses multimodal brain imaging to investigate the neural dynamics that underlie visual processing, attention and motor control in children and adults. A key goal is to determine how these brain dynamics predict cognitive performance in real time.

The primary aim of the Brain Architecture, Imaging and Cognition (BrAIC) Laboratory is to investigate the architecture of the brain and its association with cognition in health and disease, using a combination of behavioral and neuroimaging techniques. The goal is to use an integrative approach to map the brain networks that support cognitive abilities, and understand how different factors, such as age, environment and disorders, impact their interactions.

The Physiology of Walking & Engineering Rehabilitation (PoWER) Laboratory primarily focuses on how humans process/attend to sensory information, produce motor actions and learn new motor skills. The laboratory uses a blend of MEG/EEG neuroimaging and advanced biomechanical engineering analyses. The outcomes are directed at the development of new technologies for rehabilitation and therapeutic approaches for improving the mobility of patients with developmental disabilities.

The Developmental Clinical Neuroscience (DCN) Laboratory seeks to better understand how serious behavioral problems, particularly aggression, dev​elop and to better understand why trauma and PTSD play a large role triggering serious behavioral problem in some, but not all, youth. The lab examines changes in the brain and in endocrine function (hormones) and how those changes can lead to understanding the origins of serious behavioral problems.

The overarching goals of the Cognitive and Sensory Imaging (CASI) Laboratory are to understand the interactions between sensory experience and higher-order cognition such as working memory and executive function, and to characterize what these interactions look like in the brain. Current research focuses on the impact of hearing loss, and the quality and frequency of subsequent hearing interventions, on cognitive and neural development in children and adolescents.

The Neurodiversity Laboratory is dedicated to studying individual variability in neurocognitive development during childhood and adolescence. Development is a dynamic process that is continually modulated by one's environment and experiences. This lab uses advanced statistical modeling techniques and cutting-edge neuroimaging to explain the complex interactions between brain, behavior and environment, with the goal of producing knowledge that helps families and individuals thrive.