Neuroscience Pitch Competition BrainStorm to Connect Researchers to Capital

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Courtesy / Mind Science Foundation

Brainstorm will take place Oct. 2 at the Pearl Stable.

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What if you could question scientists about their cutting-edge ideas on consciousness research as you enjoy frosty drinks and tasty nibbles – all while an internationally known illusionist challenges your perceptions about reality?

The Mind Science Foundation’s BrainStorm promises to be an unforgettable neuroscience pitch competition. The event is Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Pearl Stable and kicks off with a reception at 5:30 pm before the 6:30 pm program. This members-only event is free for Mind Science Foundation members. To become a member, use this link to join.

BrainStorm is an innovative pitch competition connecting neuroscience researchers with the coaching and capital they need to fund research projects. Scientist finalists will pitch their ideas in groundbreaking neuroscience and compete for either the first prize of $30,000 or runners-up prizes of $15,000.

“The funding will help young researchers team with senior primary investigators in powerful labs to work on a pilot study that will help them obtain a grant for further research,” said Meriam Good, Mind Science Foundation director.

The interactive nature of this pitch competition includes attendees casting a vote to decide which researcher should win the evening's awards. World-renowned illusionist Mark Mitton will host the event and use his magic skills to illustrate how we perceive reality and the ways our brain can deceive us. The “misdirection expert” has worked extensively in film, television, the Broadway stage, and for Cirque du Soleil.

Using a variety of techniques to peer into the brain, each project seeks to shed light on how consciousness arises in the brain, creating our individual and subjective experience of reality. Proposals under consideration for BrainStorm pursue answers to these questions:

Can we suppress traumatic memories that cause us emotional pain?

Dr. Michael Anderson & Subbulakshmi Sankarasubramanian (University of Cambridge) aim to understand the functioning of the right frontal lobe region of the brain, its role as a “protective shield,” and how it is involved in inhibiting thoughts, memories, and actions. Individuals with traumatic injuries to this region of the brain often experience difficulties in regulating consciousness of unwanted thoughts and feelings, rendering them vulnerable to psychiatric illnesses such as depression.

They propose the use of non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation to understand the functional mechanisms that are damaged in traumatic brain injury. By careful study of 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.

Can we establish real-time, two-way communication with lucid dreamers?

The conscious experience of dreamers remains a mystery, despite a strong theoretical basis for sleep and its role in human health and well-being. Because our brains don’t have the capability of forming new memories in the dream state, the scientific study of dreaming is dependent upon the fragmentary and distorted report of the dreamer upon wakening.

But what if you could interview dreamers within their dreams? Dr. Ken Paller’s (Northwestern University) 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.

How do cold temperatures protect the brain in oxygen-deprived conditions like cold-water drownings or cardiac surgeries that necessitate stopping the heart?

Dr. David Linden & Dr. Julia Brill (John Hopkins School of Medicine) propose further research on how a person can survive a cold-water drowning with little to no brain damage. The survival of the brain’s tissue integrity and function in cold-water drownings has been documented in many cases. What is not as well understood is how extreme cooling acts to protect the brain from lasting damage.

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.

The enigma of consciousness continues to fascinate scientists and philosophers alike. The Mind Science Foundation seeks to accelerate research on consciousness through rigorous scientific exploration. The Foundation’s BrainStorm pitch competition aims to highlight novel scientific approaches in a way that gives researchers the platform to explain why their concept deserves funding. Seeking to explore the vast potential of the human mind has been the mission of the foundation since its creation 60 years ago by legendary Texas oilman and philanthropist Tom Slick.

“To be successful the researchers will need to have the skills to pitch their science and make connections to donors,” Good said. “Many neuroscience supporters are also Mind Science Foundation members keen on funding promising concepts in consciousness research.”

To become a member and receive your BrainStorm tickets, click here. Memberships will also be available at the door the night of the event.

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