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Who we are

The Brain and Creativity Institute was founded by Antonio Damasio and Hanna Damasio in 2006. Since ancient times, thinkers and scientists have sought to explain how we perceive, interpret, and shape our existence. However, until very recently, researchers interested in these questions have had to rely entirely on conjecture or indirect evidence. Recent advances in brain imaging and fresh insights into the functioning of the human brain at the level of systems, cells and molecules, now provide opportunities for uncovering the neurological basis for a large array of mental functions – from emotion and decision-making to the creativity expressed in the arts, sciences and technology.

Why is it important to take advantage of these opportunities? First, because the resulting knowledge enriches our view of human nature, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Second, and most urgently, because understanding the neurological basis of mental phenomena is indispensable for both medical and social progress in a globalized society defined by rapid changes and plagued by conflict.

For example, emotion, decision-making, memory and communication, are central to our most fundamental socio-cultural endeavors. Understanding the neurological workings of these functions within their sociocultural niche is likely to lead to novel approaches in education, business management, international relations, and technical and artistic innovation. Moreover, a host of sociocultural factors (e.g., education; the use of advanced technologies; patterns of employment and migration), interacting with genetics and other biological factors, affect well-being and play a role in the development of several diseases. A deeper understanding of brain function will open the way for investigating the largely unexplored interaction of “biological” and “sociocultural” phenomena in the mechanisms of human disease. This applies to traditional “physical” conditions, such as hypertension and infectious diseases, and to “mental” conditions, such as depression, sociopathy, and drug addiction. The relevance of such understanding to public health is apparent. Gathering new knowledge regarding the mechanisms behind these critical functions is indispensable to progress in medical diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of many brain conditions.

Seizing these opportunities, and drawing on partners from the social sciences, the humanities, and several professional disciplines, the Brain and Creativity Institute provides a framework for tackling issues ranging from the personal (such as individual health problems), to the societal and global (such as education and political conflict). The Institute is a groundbreaking effort to make use of important new discoveries from the mind and brain sciences and confront pressing issues of our time.

The New Building

As of 2012, the Brain and Creativity Institute will be housed in a new building. The design illustrates its mission. Side by side with laboratories dedicated to scientific methods of investigating mind and brain, such as magnetic resonance scanning (MR) and electroencephalography (EEG), sits one of the oldest instruments for understanding of the human mind: a classical auditorium, with state-of-the-art acoustics, devoted to music and theater performances, literary readings, and scientific presentations.

The lead gift for the new BCI building came from Dana and David Dornsife. The auditorium and lobby were endowed by Joyce J. Cammilleri. The acoustical design was the responsibility of Yasuhisa Toyota, the leading acoustical engineer of our time, who has collaborated with Frank Gehry and other architects in some of the most notable performance spaces of our time, including Disney Hall, the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Michael Maltzan produced the building’s conceptual design.

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Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Andrea McColl, Hanna Damasio, and Antonio Damasio have been been named recipients of the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize, given annually to one paper from each of the six categories published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for their paper "Neural correlates of admiration and compassion".

The awardees were recognized during the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting on April 25, 2010, in National Harbor, Maryland.