£25 million funding boost for cognitive neuroscience research


After a successful five-yearly review, the MRC has awarded £25 million to support the future research programmes of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBSU) in Cambridge.

Established in 1944, the CBSU is a leading international centre for research into cognitive and clinical systems neuroscience. Basic research into key components of human cognitive function – memory, emotion, attention and language – is closely linked to the study of disruptions of these functions in major psychological and neurological disorders.

Two state-of-the-art neuroimaging facilities, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanners, have been installed within the past four years. These have dramatically enhanced the unit’s ability to conduct internationally competitive systems neuroscience, to attract the best students and leading researchers worldwide, and to play a central enabling role in a host of new translational developments.

Some highlights of research carried out at the CBSU include research into progressive disorders of memory such as Alzheimer’s disease and development of new techniques for programming cochlear implants for people with hearing disorders. Scientists at CBSU have also identified abnormalities in the brain’s food reward networks that lead to obesity, and have probed the basic mechanisms of social attention related to autism. Major breakthroughs have been made by CBSU scientists using fMRI techniques which make it possible to detect awareness in Vegetative State patients. These findings have revolutionised the diagnosis and
treatment of these patients worldwide.

Over the next five years, the unit plans to focus on developing cross-disciplinary large-scale collaborative projects with its Cambridge partners. One initiative, the Cambridge Clinical Research Centre in Affective Disorders (C2AD), linking the CBSU, the University of Cambridge and local NHS Trusts, will directly relate basic research in disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress reactions to developments in NHS clinical practice.

William Marslen-Wilson, Director of the CBSU, said: “Our success in basic science and in clinical translation depends on our ability to build strategically coordinated teams of world class scientists covering a range of key research areas in the understanding of cognition and brain function. We ensure that these teams have the right neuroimaging resources at their disposal to support competitive work at the international cutting edge. This gives us a powerful basis for a broad range of collaborations with our scientific and clinical partners in Cambridge and beyond.

“Systems cognitive neuroscience is revolutionising our understanding of how the brain supports the mind, in sickness and in health, and we are absolutely in the thick of this worldwide explosion of activity.”


For further information and news releases on the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, visit: www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.ukand www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/news


The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

MRC [Medical Research Council]