Science & Innovation

Healthy Brain Network

Recent decades have witnessed landmark neuroscientific and technological innovations, bringing the prospect of examining the developing human brain and the impact of mental illness into reach. In particular, functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging techniques are providing scientists windows into the developing brain, as a child grows into adolescence and Healthy Brain Networkadulthood. Such advances are fueling efforts to uncover markers of psychiatric and learning disorders in children and teens that could one day be used to develop objective medical tests for these disorders and measure treatment response. Although promising, the work has just begun. Tens of thousands of datasets obtained from healthy developing children—as well as those affected by mental illness and learning disorders—will be needed. Continued innovation of analytic techniques will also be required to one day deliver clinically applicable imaging-based tools. Unfortunately, no one institution can practically expect to generate the needed data in a reasonable time; similarly, psychiatrists and psychologists alone cannot be expected to harness the power of recent scientific advances that cross disciplines, ranging from biophysics to applied mathematics. It is only with the collaborative efforts of labs around the world, including researchers from all disciplines, that we can succeed.

Against this background, the Child Mind Institute has created the Healthy Brain Network—an innovative, multifaceted model for the science of tomorrow. Inspired by calls for "open science" (i.e., the open sharing of data and analytic resources among scientists) and interdisciplinary collaboration, the Healthy Brain Network attempts to address the following goals:

  • The collaborative generation and sharing of brain images, along with accompanying genetic and phenotypic data from children and adolescents around the world.
  • The active recruitment of researchers from outside of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience to take part in efforts to advance developmental neuroscience and our understanding of the impact of mental illness.
  • Education of the public regarding the importance of research and the need for their participation.

In order to accomplish these goals, the Healthy Brain Network has developed the following programs:

  • The Child Mind Institute Biobank, which will gather brain images and genetic and phenotypic data from Child Mind Institute patients and their families, and share them free of any and all identifying information with the scientific community.
  • The Open Neuroscience Initiatives, which will enable the free and transparent sharing of all data gathered by scientists at the Child Mind Institute and institutions worldwide so that the pace of research is accelerated.
  • The Endeavor Scientist Program, which supports junior researchers in all fields who turn their efforts towards the science of the developing brain.
  • The Meeting My Mind Program, which helps children and their families learn about the fMRI and brain development.
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