New $35 Million Center for Mind, Brain and Learning Created at UW

A Center for Mind, Brain and Learning to conduct innovative research on early brain and behavioral development has been created at the University of Washington with a $35.5 million pledge from the Seattle-based Talaris Research Institute.

The center will work jointly with Talaris, which was established in August, to promote new discoveries about the developing human mind and to spread the results of this research to help parents, educators and policymakers improve the lives of young children.

Co-directors of the new center are Patricia Kuhl, UW speech and hearing sciences professor who is one of the world's leading authorities on speech and language development; and Andrew Meltzoff, UW psychology professor who is an internationally recognized expert in cognitive science [See "Baby Talk," Sept. 1993 Columns].

Like genetics, biotechnology and informatics, great strides are expected in the next decade, and we are poised to contribute substantially to this effort.

Talaris has committed the $35.5 million to the UW both directly and through joint-development efforts to advance the research of the center. One million dollars already has been provided to launch the center and the balance will be contributed over the next five years. John Medina, a former UW developmental molecular biologist, is the director of Talaris, and Sam Smith, former president of Washington State University, is the president of the institute's board of directors. Bruce and Jolene McCaw are the primary financial benefactors of Talaris.

"The University of Washington has long been in the forefront of research on learning," says UW President Richard L. McCormick. "With this significant financial support from the Talaris Research Institute and with our partnership to ensure that our research developments are quickly made available to the practitioner community, the University will continue as a path breaker in assuring practical and effective uses for our discoveries.

"We are extremely excited to join in partnership to further this important field. Research on the developing mind is one of the next great scientific frontiers," adds Kuhl. "Like genetics, biotechnology and informatics, great strides are expected in the next decade, and we are poised to contribute substantially to this effort."

The new center will assemble an interdisciplinary team of faculty members in developmental psychology, brain plasticity, education, computer science and molecular biology. Once assembled, the researchers will explore such major themes as milestones of development; brain plasticity and mechanisms of developmental change; brain-behavior links; nature-nurture; and computer vs. biological learning.

Experimental programs, including a child-care nursery and a preschool, are being developed to examine and apply scientific discoveries to early learning. In total, an investment of more than $150 million for learning and brain research is planned over the next five years.

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