The brain is the most complex and least understood organ in the human body. We are only beginning to unravel its mysteries, and comprehend the connections between the brain and the body, and the brain and the mind.
But aren’t the brain and the mind the same thing? The answer is yes, and no. When physicians and scientists speak of understanding the “brain,” they refer to the master control system that runs the body and interacts with the environment. The brain is hardware, so to speak. Its wiring controls the physical and mental activities of an individual. The “mind”—our feelings, our motivations, our unconscious and conscious thoughts—arises from brain activity. Of course, we know that the brain itself is responsible for the ability to think, but the idea that we should treat the brain and the mind in tandem is relatively new.
At the Institute for the Neurosciences within Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), we understand that we must consider disorders of the brain in regards to their impact on the mind, and vice versa. To achieve this, more than 600 physicians, residents, researchers, specialized nurses, and support staff in the Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry—many world-renowned in their field—collaborate at our Institute in a uniquely integrated manner to offer innovative, compassionate, and patient-centered care and to pioneer groundbreaking advances in psychiatric, neurologic, and neurosurgical conditions. Institute members work toward one collaborative goal: to advance our understanding of the brain and mind so we can most effectively treat their disorders.
Our prospects for making significant progress in the treatment of neurological disorders and mental illness have never been greater than at the Institute for the Neurosciences. The medical landscape has been drastically reshaped by an explosion of knowledge in genetics and genomics, innovative approaches to drug discovery, powerful imaging tools, and advanced technologies for monitoring and treating brain and mind diseases. Such advances are enabling BWH scientists to probe the complex genetic basis of neurologic disorders, unravel the mechanisms that disrupt normal brain activity, and expose the intricate signaling pathways and circuitry of the working brain.
Here at the Institute for the Neurosciences, a bevy of physicians and scientists are leading this charge to unravel the mysteries of the brain. Our collaborative expertise, our focused strategy, and our state of the art facilities have proven effective for attracting the next generation of leaders in neuromedicine to the Institute. The Institute’s prominent fellowships, integrated training programs, clinical scholar programs, and conferences, are highly sought after. And in light of our expanding base of aging baby boomer patients, we project a substantial, growing demand for the Institute’s clinical expertise in age-related brain disorders.
For all patients suffering from neurological conditions and psychiatric diseases, the BWH Institute for the Neurosciences stands as an epicenter of discovery and a beacon of hope. The Institute’s fundamental strategy for enhancing care and speeding the pace of discovery is to focus resources simultaneously on each stage in the discovery continuum—from basic research aimed at unmasking the genetic and biochemical underpinnings of the brain and mind function, to translational studies dedicated to converting lab findings into potential diagnostic tests that provide personalized medicine by subtyping disorders based upon mechanism, and into therapies involving neuroprotection, neuromodulation, and neurorepair.
This detailed and focused approach will have broad implications across a spectrum of disease areas. The following are vital elements of our approach:
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