UCLA Magazine - January 2016

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ucla magazine JANUARY 2016


ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN WITH TWELVE STRANGERS Tokyo, Miami and Falls Church. All across the globe, Bruins will be gathering for dinner on February 27, February 28, and March 6 to celebrate a UCLA tradition where anything can happen. Friendships can be made, love connections can spark, new opportunities can present themselves. Reserve your seat today at a dinner hosted by an alumnus in your area. Log on to alumni.ucla.edu/D12mag



32 ON THE COVER In a special theme issue — our first ever — UCLA Magazine explores the remarkable advances that are fueling the greatest era of neuroscience in history. At the forefront of this brave new world: hundreds of UCLA faculty working on brain science across campus.


FEATURES 20 GRAY MATTERS Technology is empowering a new age of neuroscience at UCLA and around the world. By Jack Feuer

24 HOPE IS REAL UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge is an innovative quest to conquer a lethal disease.


By Jack Feuer


4 AT ISSUE On the Frontiers of Science 30 FUTURE THINKING Neuroscience pioneer John Mazziotta envisions where brain research may lead.

6 QUICK TAKES Toys on a Mission

By Mary Daily

14 FORWARD THINKER Peter Whybrow

32 GET THE PICTURE Brain mapping enables scientists to find answers to questions they never before could ask.

16 LIFE SIGNS Honoring Adolescence 18 CHANGE AGENT Kay Jamison ’71, M.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75

By Robin Keats

47 HAPPENINGS Men’s Hoops 2016 40 HEADS UP The UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program looks at sports concussions in young athletes.

51 HAIL TO THE HILLS Ahead of Its Time

By Wendy Soderburg ’82

52 END POINT Small Fish, Big Science

ucla magazine january 2016 volume 27 number 2 a publication of ucla and the ucla alumni association chancellor Gene Block vice chancellor, external affairs Rhea Turteltaub associate vice chancellor, alumni affairs associate vice chancellor, advancement services Julie Sina senior executive director, marketing and special events Jim Poore senior executive director, media relations and public outreach Steve Ritea director, creative services Powell Michael editorial director Jack Feuer managing editor Wendy Soderburg ’82 senior editor/web editor Mary Daily design director Charles Hess art director Suzannah Mathur contributing designer Sakol Mongkolkasetarin production designer Heather Cisneros

advertising Anne Pautler apautler@support.ucla.edu (310) 794-6879 editorial 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1000 Los Angeles, CA 90024–6517 (310) 794-0281 magazine@support.ucla.edu address updates (800) 825-2586 alumni.ucla.edu/update (for UCLA alumni)

web designer Joseph Maddela contributing writers Paul Feinberg ’85 Dan Gordon ’85 copy editor Mary Nadler fact checker Andrew Rosenblum M.A. ’04, Ph.D. ’05

Los Angeles-based photographer and director david black, who’s known for his work with musicians, shot portraits of scientists for our story on UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge (“Hope is Real,” page 24). Black was selected by Photo District News as one of 30 emerging photographers to watch in 2011, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Interview Magazine. He studied at The Cooper Union and San Francisco Art Institute. His commercial clients include Adidas, Levi’s and Microsoft. Julia breckenreid enjoys capturing the breadth of a subject in a single image, as she did when picturing the brain as the final frontier in our story on brain science (“Gray Matters,” page 20). Breckenreid works in a shared studio in Kensington Market, Toronto. Her work has garnered a number of awards, and her clients include The New York Times, The Globe & Mail, Penguin Books, Chronicle Books and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. dan gordon ’85 regularly pens the magazine’s Life Signs department, this time on the special qualities of the adolescent brain and the challenges of parenting young people at that stage of life (“Honoring Adolescence,” page 16). In this issue, he also looks at a new way to test the toxicity of the things we touch, feel and consume every day (“Chemistry Test,” page 11). A busy freelancer, Gordon has covered many UCLA stories in the health sciences, business and education, and has also written for the Los Angeles Times and Glamour. Los Angeles native spencer lowell says the saturated colors of sun-drenched Southern California are part of his aesthetic. Color certainly comes to life in his images for our story on UCLA’s brain mapping center (“Get the Picture,” page 32). He also captured Jeff Bronstein M.D. ’88, Ph.D. ’88 tending to the zebrafish he works with in studying Parkinson’s disease (“Small Fish, Big Science,” page 52). Lowell is a graduate of Art Center College of Design. claudia luther spoke with Kay Redfield Jamison ’71, M.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75 (“Of Moods and Madness,” page 18) about Jamison’s unusual perspective on depressive illnesses, having treated thousands of patients while suffering from bipolar disorder herself. Luther also talked with Dan Geschwind about his groundbreaking work in addressing the mysteries and challenges of autism (“Autism’s Auteur,” page 22). Luther spent 33 years on staff at the Los Angeles Times and then worked in media relations at UCLA until her retirement in 2012. As a gym enthusiast herself and the mother of two teenage daughters, patty park ’91 took a special interest in writing about the UCLA Sound Body Sound Mind program (“Fit for All,” page 10), which upgrades fitness facilities at under-resourced schools. The program’s goal is to help youth become more active and physically fit. Before becoming a freelance writer, Park worked in communications for United Way of Greater Los Angeles, City of Hope and Toyota.

editorial assistants Kristen Hardy ’17 Adam Tilford ’16 associate production director Rosemary Fahmie production manager Don Leddy

UCLA Magazine (ISSN 1075 — 2749) is published quarterly by the University of California, Los Angeles, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1000, Los Angeles, CA 90024-6517, for the UCLA Alumni Association. Periodicals postage paid at Los Angeles, CA, and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions: for Life, Blue and Gold members of the UCLA Alumni Association, $4 of membership fee for an annual subscription. For donors to the university, $4 of each unrestricted $100 contributed annually for an annual subscription. For others, $8 per year in the United States, $26 foreign. Send subscription inquiries and address changes to: Business Manager, UCLA Magazine, External Affairs Publications, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1000, Los Angeles, CA 90024-6517. © 2015 by The Regents of the University of California. Persons wishing to reprint any portion of UCLA Magazine’s contents are required to write in advance for permission. UCLA Magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Materials will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Address inquiries to: Editor, UCLA Magazine, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1000, Los Angeles, CA 90024-6517; e-mail: magazine@support.ucla.edu; fax: (310) 794-6883. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: UCLA Biographic Data Department, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., 11th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90024-6513. Printed on a recycled paper stock using vegetable-based inks. Please recycle.

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Year after year, inspire us

26 consecutive years Best in the West & now No. 3 in the Nation U.S.News & World Report The doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers of UCLA are honored to be at the top of U.S.News & World Report’s Best Hospitals for 2015-16. We’re especially proud to be the only hospital in Southern California consistently ranked among the best in the country. Still, our greatest honor is serving you by bringing nationally recognized care and compassion to you and your family. To us, it’s what always comes first.

To find a UCLA doctor near you, just call us at 1-800-UCLA-MD1 or visit uclahealth.org


Neuroscience has advanced more in the past decade and a half than in all of human history. UCLA has been at the forefront of this extraordinary journey for more than 50 years. By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES in the study of the human brain are proceeding at a staggering rate. New discoveries illuminating the brain’s intricate design and function appear almost daily, and the wonder of these findings is matched only by the breadth of their impact on everything from medicine and computer science to ethics and architecture. UCLA has been a world leader in brain and neuroscience research for more than half a century, going all the way back to the founding of the UCLA Brain Research Institute in 1959. Today, more than 500 faculty members across campus work

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collaboratively on some aspect of neuroscience. Our researchers have developed effective new treatments for mental and physical diseases, and have produced novel applications of brain-related research across a spectrum of academic disciplines. It is precisely because of UCLA’s leadership in brain research that this past fall, I announced the second UCLA Grand Challenge, which targets depression. Depressive disorders adversely affect health, work and relationships, and are the strongest risk factors for suicide. Our goal in this effort, the largest and most ambitious ever

computer science to algorithm development. Another feature explores the groundbreaking work of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program, which diagnoses and treats sports-related and nonsports-related concussions and other traumatic brain injuries. Already, the program has given birth to the nation’s first Pediatric Neurology Fellowship Program, and it has equipped UCLA football players with sensor-carrying helmets that register head impacts and help us understand the forces underlying concussions and brain injury. The brain and its link to human behavior are examined in a series of other stories in this issue. Peter Whybrow, director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and a bestselling author, sheds light on the effect that our frenetic modern lifestyle has on brain health. The meaning of moods is explored by UCLA alumna Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the world’s foremost authorities on mood disorders and former director of UCLA’s Affective Disorders Clinic. There is much inside this issue of UCLA Magazine certain to provoke thought and discussion of this “golden age” of brain research and the profound changes that it promises for our society. UCLA researchers will continue to play a leading role in this exciting century of new discoveries.



On the Frontiers of Science

undertaken to understand and treat the disease, is to cut the burden of depressive disorders in half by the year 2050, and to eliminate it by the end of the century. Already, more than 100 members of our faculty in 25 departments are involved in the effort, and that number is expected to increase as the Grand Challenge moves forward. We will dismantle the stigma of depression and our work will lead to a better quality of life for many who struggle with this devastating illness in all of its forms. You can read more about the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge in this edition of UCLA Magazine, which is organized around the theme of brain science. The issue provides a fascinating overview of UCLA’s brightest moments in brain research and illuminates a future filled with truly dazzling scientific possibilities. Also in these pages, John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, dean of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and a renowned neuroscientist, outlines today’s discoveries and where neuroscience may take all of us in the future. Mazziotta played a lead role in the establishment of the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, a global resource for studying the human brain through state-ofthe-art equipment and a faculty with expertise that ranges from

SPRING HIGHLIGHTS IN ROYCE HALL Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 plus Red Baraat: Mardi Gras Bhangra Regina Carter plus Sam Amidon Lucinda Williams plus Bill Frisell and Sean Rowe

Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall Phantom Limb Company Memory Rings

Pussy Riot: Art, Sex & Disobedience Roz Chast Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

CONTRA-TIEMPO: Agua Furiosa Akram Khan & Israel Galván Torobaka ODC: boulders and bones


Discounts for the UCLA Community



Buy an adoraBle stuffed toy, help an endangered species: that’s the concept behind the wildlife-themed line of stuffed animals manufactured in los angeles by Indy Plush. Company co-founder Plinio Garcia ’82 explains, “environmentalists often use very graphic images to bring attention to problems, but that’s not really good for kids. We want to teach children the value of protecting animals, and we believe that making happy, plush toys is a great way to do it.” Garcia and his partner, andrew ruesch ’11, seized on the idea of building a stuffed animal business after their son luke came home from kindergarten with a

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handmade dog. Partnering with luke’s kindergarten teacher, franceil Masi, Garcia and ruesch started Indy Plush in their garage and nearly sold out the first batch of self-designed creatures at Venice’s abbot Kinney festival. In 2014, Indy Plush went national when Whole foods agreed to carry 14 of the soft-bodied toys, including Giant Panda, Grizzly Bear, Javan rhino, Bengal tiger, Puma, Mountain lion, leatherback turtle, eastern lowland Gorilla and Hammerhead shark. In 2015, the store carried an even broader range. “Getting our toys into Whole foods was huge, because their mission is to give back, and that’s just

PHOTOS: (gArciA And ruEScH) AnniE TriTT; (TOyS) cOurTESy Of indy PluSH

Toys on a Mission

go figure: vanishing act Worldwide, more than 23,000 animal species are categorized as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The classifications indicate the animals’ likelihood to become extinct.

what these toys do,” says ruesch, who also works as a reality tV development executive. Indy Plush, which sells both online and out of its showroom at fisherman’s Wharf in Marina del rey, shares 15 to 20 percent of its proceeds from the endangered species toys with nonprofit wildlife advocacy groups. for example, partner orang utan republik foundation receives a cut each time Indy Plush sells an orangutan doll. other partners include shark angels and the dian fossey Gorilla fund International. “orangutans are one of the most intelligent mammals on the planet,” Garcia says. “People are deforesting their environment for palm oil, which increases greenhouse gases and creates havoc. By protecting these animals, we’re also protecting our planet.” a Green america Certified company, Indy Plush hews to eco-friendly manufacturing standards, using recycled plastic bottles as filler and keeping packaging to a minimum. to drive home its environmental message, Indy Plush attaches an informational tag to each “endangered” toy. “the tag says how many of those animals are left in the wild,” Garcia explains. “It’s part of the educational aspect of these toys, because we want kids and their parents to read that tag and realize, ‘oh my God, there are only 33 left!’ ” — Hugh Hart






(Left) Andrew Ruesch (left) and Plinio Garcia in their showroom at Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina del Rey. (Bottom) Indy Plush orangutans







Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature








cRiMe is no MaTcH FoR MaTH The map above shows the underlying density of crime in the LAPD’s Foothill Division and a projection of what a 7.4-percent reduction in crime looks like over a year in terms of single events. The “heat map” in the background shows the average distribution of crime. The blue dots give an impression of how many crimes can be prevented and shows that even a 7.4-percent reduction is significant.

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WHen you tHInK of successful policing, math may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But uCla researchers are finding that algorithms can be key to preventing major crimes, such as car theft and robbery. the success of their method has led the los angeles Police department (laPd) to adopt an algorithm-based program for 19 of its 21 divisions that helps them deploy officers most effectively. traditionally, large police departments have turned to dedicated crime analysts to predict and prevent crime. these analysts weigh multiple factors each day to anticipate areas with a high risk for criminal activity. But the algorithms developed by uCla anthropology Professor Jeffrey Brantingham, along with uCla Mathematics Professor andrea Bertozzi and other colleagues, improve the prediction process. the researchers take into account what types of crimes have recently occurred in an area, and at what times, in order to predict where and when crime is likely to occur. their work enables patrolling police officers to be in the right place at the right time, deterring criminal activity in high-risk areas. a recent study led by Brantingham focused on the laPd and the Kent Police department in

Great Britain to verify that the algorithms were more accurate than trained analysts in predicting crime hot spots. In los angeles, over a period of 117 days, the algorithm program predicted the location of 4.7 percent of the crimes that occurred, results 2.2 times more accurate than the analysts’ predictions. the more precise predictions translated to an average of 4.3 (or 7.4 percent) fewer crimes per week. In Kent, the algorithm predicted 9.8 percent and 6.8 percent of crimes in two regions, compared to 6.8 percent and 4.0 percent predicted by the analysts. to promote uCla’s predictive-policing math approach across the u.s. and overseas, Brantingham co-founded a company named PredPol. to date, more than 50 police departments, including those in atlanta, seattle and several towns in California, have implemented the program. In alhambra, Calif., Police Chief Mark yokoyama notes that after the department began using PredPol, the city’s car burglaries and thefts decreased substantially. laPd Chief Charlie Beck says, “I’m not going to get more money. I’m not going to get more cops. I have to be better at using what I have, and that’s what predictive policing is about.” — Kristen Hardy ’17

Voices of Belmont Village

“The friends that I have made here have turned my life around.” To many, living at home means freedom and independence. But it can also be isolating. Belmont Village residents enjoy a lifestyle that keeps them physically active and mentally engaged, delighting in the company of friends old and new. At Belmont Village, you don’t have to live alone to be independent.

It’s not just your home. It’s your community.

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The Community Built for Life.® belmontvillage.com

a soluTion FoR PuDgy PeTs It feels lIKe some late-night tV parody: a pet food company inspired by obese dogs. But nulo is no joke. nulo Pet food is the brainchild of Michael landa M.B.a. ’95. teaching pet owners new dietary tricks while getting the pet food name brands to roll over, however, was not part of his original plan. landa earned a degree in electrical and biomedical engineering at Boston university and then worked for Xerox, Ge, sony and universal. But a road trip changed his career path. forced to cancel a flight to Colorado because his labrador retriever, Max II, was too sick to fly, landa searched unsuccessfully for a sitter, then drove to Colorado with his dog in tow. Hours on the road gave him time to contemplate l.a.’s

limited pet-sitting options, and the executive became an entrepreneur. His first venture, a pet-sitting business, exposed him to lots of overweight and diabetic pets. Voila! nulo Pet food was born. “I had witnessed dogs and cats getting diabetes from their high-carb, high-glycemic diets,” he says. “When we [created] our formula, we recognized that dogs and cats need a diet high in quality proteins. about 80 to 85 percent of nulo’s protein is derived from poultry, fish and meat — an industry high.” But it takes more than a healthy product to stand out in the crowded pet food space. “five companies control 80 percent of pet food sales,” says landa. “We

needed to break through the clutter of billion-dollar companies.” nulo took a multipronged approach to reaching customers, distributing one product line, nulo freestyle, in independent pet stores. a separate product line, nulo Medalseries, sold exclusively through Petsmart, helps nulo to scale its reach without alienating its indie following. an innovative

marketing approach featuring familiar faces from the sports world helps build the brand. “a lot of people don’t know how to read labels,” landa says. “But athletes do. they understand how to evaluate food because they do it for themselves.” — Paul Feinberg ’85

Just a feW years aGo, the P.e. facilities at the alliance renee & Meyer luskin academy High school consisted of a dirt field and half a basketball court. today, the south los angeles school houses a state-of-the-art fitness center with eight spin bikes, six elliptical machines, multiple upper and lower body machines, weights and more.

luskin academy is one of 95 schools in the l.a. unified school district (lausd) benefiting from the sound Body sound Mind foundation, whose mission is to combat childhood obesity. the group has made a $3-million pledge to partner with uCla Health system, forming uCla Health sound Body sound Mind. “Childhood obesity is particularly acute in low-income, high-minority communities that regularly lack safe outdoor space and recreational facilities,” says Bill simon, a co-founder of the sound Body sound Mind foundation. “this collaboration will allow us to expand our impact.” the l.a. County department of Public Health found that 42 percent of u.s. kids are overweight. and the Children’s defense fund found that adolescents in low-income neigh-

Students build sound bodies during a curriculum training.

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borhoods are nine times more likely to be overweight than those in more affluent areas. anastasia loukaitou-sideris, associate dean of the uCla luskin school of Public affairs, examined five inner-city schools and found that after the sound Body sound Mind curriculum was implemented, the percentage of students who passed the fitnessgram test that measures youth physical fitness tripled, exceeding lausd and state averages. “It didn’t just better their bodies; it affected their minds, building self-esteem and confidence,” she says. uCla Health sound Body sound Mind plans fitness centers at seven other lausd schools “to get the kids so engaged in fitness that it will become part of their life,” says david feinberg, former Ceo of the uCla Hospital system and a member of the advisory board for sound Body sound Mind. “We will see a decline in obesity and an improvement in physical fitness, and that’s related to improvement in school performance, which then means your whole life is better.” — Patty Park ’91

PHOTO: cOurTESy Of uclA HEAlTH SOund BOdy SOund Mind. illuSTrATiOn: PETEr ArKlE

FiT FoR all

cHeMisTRy TesT an estIMated 80,000 chemical substances lurk in our environment, deposited there through industrial and agricultural waste and embedded in consumer goods ranging from food and pharmaceuticals to personal care products. and we don’t really know which ones are not harmful and which ones are, and to what degree. even as companies continue to produce new chemical compounds at a rapid clip, toxicologists and state and federal regulators agree that the conventional approaches to testing substances for toxicity have significant limitations. now there may be a better way to test the toxicity of the things we touch, feel and consume every day, courtesy of uCla assistant Professor Patrick allard and his colleagues in the uCla fielding school of Public Health. “When we say chemicals in the environment are safe, that’s only within the context of what has been studied,” says allard. “But what has been studied is only the tip of the iceberg — there is still a great deal of uncertainty.” Moreover, he adds, the current tests can accurately determine whether chemical compounds can cause genetic damage or cancer. “But when it comes to determining the effects on more complex concerns like reproduction and aging, this is where the technology lags.” the fielding team has developed an alternative approach that addresses the key shortcomings of the conventional methods by applying state-of-the-art automated technologies from genetics and other biological fields. the approach tests for the reproductive toxicity of chemical compounds using C. elegans — tiny worms that have served as model organisms for research in genetics and

Patrick Allard

developmental biology, both because they’ve preserved many human reproductive processes and because they reproduce rapidly. In the u.s., approximately 60,000 chemicals are exempt from being tested by the environmental Protection agency, having been grandfathered in by the toxic substances Control act of 1976. and, allard notes, while chemical companies are now required to test new compounds before introducing them into the environment, the limits of traditional methods leave many questions unanswered. allard’s method dramatically reduces the time and cost of such screening, while eliminating the need to test on rodents and other vertebrate animals. “With this approach, we can now simultaneously screen hundreds of compounds for their toxicity to the reproductive process, which can help to prioritize the chemicals that need further analysis,” he says. — Dan Gordon ’85

PHOTO: cOurTESy Of OWEn lEi, uclA fiElding ScHOOl Of PuBlic HEAlTH. illuSTrATiOn: PETEr ArKlE

notable quotable

“like the chinese proverb ‘in the battle of the river and the rock, the river always wins, not through strength but through perseverance.’ ” — Dr. John Mazziotta, founding director of UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and vice chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences, on the need for brain researchers to never give up the search for answers




Class of ’78, ’80, ’88 Nationally Recognized Anthropologist, Gang Expert, Writer

Professor of Geography, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author, Scientist

Class of ’00, ’07 Actress, Role Model, PhD in Neuroscience

GO AHEAD, TELL US IT CAN’T BE DONE. Powered by our boundless spirit of optimism, we lead by starting every challenge knowing that we can—we will—find a way. We challenge the status quo. Doubt the doubters. And turn barriers into our next milestones. What odds will you defy?


forWArd THinker

The Modern Mismatch

By Mary Daily

How did you come to study both endocrinology and psychiatry? After i finished medical school, i worked at university College hospital in London, caring for patients with thyroid cancer. in the course of treatment, individuals were deprived of thyroid hormone, and many became severely depressed and unable to think creatively. this intrigued me, so later i studied psychiatry specifically to explore the relationship among thyroid hormones, brain function and behavior. As an endocrinologist, what do you observe about our stress levels today? the stress system of the body is an ancient survival mechanism designed for acute, life-threatening emergencies. the brain releases a flood of hormones that turn off

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PHOTO: rebeCCa Cabage

We live in the shadow of our achievements, says Peter C. Whybrow, best-selling author and director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. We are, he says, out of tune with who we are and with the planet that nurtures us.

Peter WhybroW is not surPrised by the high incidence of obesity, diabetes, depression and other maladies in the u.s. today. the renowned uCLA psychiatrist and endocrinologist believes that a stressful mismatch between the brain’s evolved biology and today’s seductive, demand-driven culture has helped shape behavior and habits that are disruptive to a life well lived. Whybrow’s popular books, including his latest, The Well-Tuned Brain, explore this cultural mismatch and how we can restore life’s balance through neuroscience and self-understanding.

when danger passes. but chronic stress is different. We are poorly tuned for the technology-driven, relentless demand of modern-day living, with attention-grabbing alarms ringing 24/7. Chronic stress has a big impact on our physiology. the more stressful and competitive society becomes, the more vulnerable we are to anxiety and depression. here at uCLA, for example, about 20 percent of the students on campus consult student health services with such complaints. What prompted you to write popular books? i’m a firm believer in helping patients better manage their illnesses through self-understanding. that’s how it started, writing about the patient experience. Later, i became fascinated with how cultural and behavioral insight might help prevent many of our affluence-driven plagues, including some mental disabilities, which, in disrupting brain function, also invade the self. What do you mean, “invade the self”? if you have a disease of the body, you can be somewhat objective about it, but when an illness perturbs the brain and self-understanding, it distorts the way you see the world. the material, market-driven culture we have built reinforces that distortion in some instances. How does the culture do that? America is a nation of migrants. We are an optimistic, driven culture focused on individual achievement. such behavior, rooted in the ancient brain, is also the engine of the market: short-term reward, social ambition and a fascination with novelty. this migrant zeal brings great material advantage, but also burdens — stress, myopia to future challenge, and mounting debt. this mismatch of ancient striving, a habit-driven brain and material affluence can wash away much of our better selves. So you’re not surprised by the rate of diseases like anxiety, diabetes and obesity in the U.S.? not at all. these are diseases of affluence. it’s a serious challenge. obese children will be obese adults, and their lifespan will be shorter than their parents’, not to mention the cost to public health. Affluence and poverty are both disruptive. And it is not just materialism: Affluence of information, opportunity and choice can each drive us off balance. How does the wish for instant gratification harm us? An affluent culture feeds instant reward. Consider debt or technology. each enables us to enjoy the present without thinking about the long-term consequence.

Credit card purchases blunt our awareness of true cost. technological assistance now essentially permits 50 percent of Americans to avoid exercise. How is this played out in the use of credit? easy credit changes the way we think about risk. Credit makes possible today what otherwise must be postponed. We think little about how the credit will be repaid because in our immediate focus, we discount the future. thus are we seduced into carrying a growing debt burden that eventually becomes unsustainable. the ancient instinctual brain lives in the emotional present and wants things right now. the lateral human frontal cortex, more recently evolved, better assesses long-term risk. ideally, the two balance each other. Where does the balance break down? in the face of temptation. We’re good at assessing risk if the danger is apparent and immediate: “should i cross Wilshire boulevard when there’s a gap in the traffic, but the traffic light is against me?” no: reason prevails. but when the choice is less acute, and the reward desirable — “should i stick to my diet or eat the dessert?” — the emotional brain wins over reason every time. What are the downsides to personal technology? used wisely, the personal technologies can be of fantastic benefit. they are also compelling. the danger for the unwary lies in dependence, even addiction, until craving the next fix becomes akin to electronic cocaine. More broadly, i worry that despite being celebrated as a social revolution, our apps and eye-popping gadgets can impoverish the development of empathic understanding. While rooted in biology, the nurturing of such vital intuitive skills is the cultural foundation of character and social trust — the acquired manners and mores that knit society together and promote genuine human progress. i believe such qualities of mind will continue to be built upon intimate personal experience rather than its distillation through personal technology. How do you manage stress in your life? i try to practice what i preach. i walk to work. When i am in the office or a meeting, my phone is off. i [only] carry it when traveling and when on call. to leave one’s phone on invites others to prioritize one’s life. When it rings you are compelled to answer, thus hanging up on who you are with. turning it off when not required reduces the stress of distraction and helps focus attention. i find that an essential adaptation to modern life.

“affluence of information, opportunity and choice can each drive us off balance.”

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LIFE SIGNS Between ages 12 and 24, the brain undergoes tremendous change and is primed for innovative thinking. By Dan Gordon ’85

16    2016

ADOLESCENCE GETS A BAD RAP, particularly among parents grappling with the behavior changes we commonly ascribe to the teen years. Popular culture and adult conversation often portray adolescence as a period of mood swings and raging hormones, of immaturity and rebellion. Daniel J. Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, says we have it all wrong. In his New York Times best-selling book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Siegel draws on new findings to make the case that between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in ways that are critical and productive, if also sometimes challenging and maddening. Siegel cites studies done at UCLA and elsewhere that have used powerful imaging tools to observe structural changes in the brain during adolescence. The observations reveal what Siegel calls a remodeling process that dramatically reduces the teen brain’s synaptic connections and adds a healthy coating known as myelin around those that remain. The result is more efficient, better-integrated cognition. Meanwhile, the adolescent brain’s reward circuitry ramps up, and the limbic region where decision-making occurs is altered in a way that promotes “hyper-rational thinking.” In this type of thinking, evaluations are weighted toward the exciting aspects of an action, with less emphasis on the potential negative consequences. Siegel lists four fundamental outcomes of these changes that he contends combine to form the “ESSENCE” of adolescence: an emotional spark (ES), which manifests as both moodiness and passion; social engagement (SE), which includes pulling away from parents and gravitating toward peers; novelty (N) seeking, the urge to try new things and pursue excitement; and cre-


Honoring Adolescence

ative exploration (CE), the desire to challenge the status quo and push boundaries. “When we say it’s all raging hormones, there’s nothing we can do about it,” says Siegel, who was the founding co-director of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. “But when we understand that the brain is remodeling, and parents and teens learn more about the science behind these tendencies, there is a lot that can be done to make this a healthy period of growth and to bring parents and teens closer.” Siegel offers the following tips: Keep the Fire Burning The changes in the limbic area of the brain make adolescents more likely to experience intense emotions and mood swings. Parents and teens should understand that this is normal. Siegel counsels parents to teach their adolescents not to push feelings away, but instead to acknowledge them as a way to achieve balance. This process is called “name it to tame it,” based on studies showing that naming emotions can calm the limbic firing. And then there’s the upside. “You have a tremendous amount of passion and vitality during the adolescent period — the sense that life is on fire — and that’s a beautiful thing that should be encouraged,” Siegel says. Promote Peer Engagement, with a Conscience The growing influence of peers that coincides with the teenage years should be celebrated, because the social and relationship-building skills honed during the teen years can pay dividends over a lifetime.



“Adolescents are incredibly collaborative beings, and we need to do more to nurture that ability,” Siegel says. The danger, he notes, is that the drive for belonging can become so powerful that the teen forsakes morality to gain membership in — or acceptance from — the group. “We want to teach adolescents to have an internal compass so that they stay true to their values,” Siegel says. Although teens may be inclined to establish some distance from their parents, he adds, they still have a strong need for adult influences in their lives, making trusted non-parental adults such as teachers and coaches all the more important. Support Safe Exploration The enhanced reward circuitry and hyper-rational thinking that make novelty so appealing serve a vital evolutionary purpose. “If you’re not willing or encouraged to move toward novelty, you’re just going to stay in your familiar, comfortable, predictable environment,” Siegel says. “Nature needs the adolescent to be prepared to leave home.” If emotional spark is passion and social engagement is collaboration and connection, the novelty draw is about the courage to try something new. The problem, as many parents know all too well, is that the urge to venture toward unknown and exciting turf may lead to unsafe activities and behaviors. While allowing the adolescent to explore is an important step toward maturity, parents can provide support in building that internal compass so that the teen is more likely to explore judiciously.

Good Thinking: Learn more about how to train your

brain at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: http://marc.ucla.edu.

Respect the Rebellion A young child’s brain is wired to soak in data about the world. As part of the remodeling that occurs during adolescence, the teenager begins to question the adult’s world, moving from acceptance of the status quo to challenging it and imagining how things could be. “We need to honor this process, which can be very unsettling,” Siegel says. “When you realize the world isn’t the way it should be, you can feel disillusionment, disappointment, and even disgust. You begin to see your parents as fallible.” But the upside is tremendous. “As adults get older, they tend to adapt and find their niche,” Siegel notes. “That’s why many of the major innovations come from people in their teens and early to mid-20s, who are still in this creative exploration phase. Unfortunately, too many adults call this ‘adolescent rebellion.’ I call it the potential for saving humanity.” Learn and Live Describing the actions of an adult as “adolescent” comes across as an insult. Yet Siegel says parents should admire the unique qualities of adolescence, which are also keys to healthy aging. “In some cases, part of the generational tension is that adults realize they’ve lost something vital in their lives, but it’s never too late to get it back,” Siegel says. “All of the science points to the notion that if you want a good adulthood, [you need to] keep your adolescence going for as long as possible.”

“Adolescents are incredibly collaborative beings, and we need to do more to nurture that ability.”

]  2016   17


Of Moods and Madness

By Claudia Luther

Q: When you first experienced depression, at age 17, you kept it to yourself. Why? A: I was manic at the beginning and didn’t think anything was wrong. I felt great. But when I got psychotically depressed, I knew something was

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very wrong. I didn’t say to myself, ‘You’ve got manic-depressive illness,’ but I knew I was sick. Q: But you didn’t tell anyone? A: Correct. Which is a very common response, actually. Q: You feared the possible professional ramifications of revealing your illness, perhaps losing your academic standing, but you did it anyway. Why? A: I felt hypocritical not doing it. I was tired of acting as though I had something to hide. I’ve been very fortunate, as have hundreds of thousands of people, to respond well to treatment. If people don’t go public, the world has no concept of how treatable these illnesses are. It’s helpful when people can say, look, I didn’t have to wall myself off. I could go out and compete and try to make a difference.


Kay Redfield Jamison knows depressive illnesses as both a patient and a doctor.

IN 1995, KAY REDFIELD JAMISON ’71, M.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75, one of the world’s leading authorities on mood disorders, revealed that she herself had suffered from manic-depressive illness since she was a teenager. She made the revelation in the middle of a thriving academic and clinical career, in a book titled An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. The co-founder of UCLA’s Mood Disorders Clinic, author of six books and recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant,” she is now a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“These are fascinating illnesses; they’ve been around since we began as a species.”

Q: How do you define depression? A: First of all, it’s not one illness, but a group of illnesses with different causes, different treatments. One set of definitions is clinical and has clear diagnostic criteria and a lot of biological and therapeutic implications. But depression is also part of the human condition. It’s been around since people began describing human nature. The average age of onset is young; it often begins in adolescence or young adulthood. And it’s potentially lethal. Q: What advances in the last 10 to 15 years offer more hope for these illnesses? A: A lot of things can make a difference, such as brain scanning and genetic studies, which UCLA has been deeply involved in. Depression is recognized now as a treatable illness, and there are huge advances that make it more likely that the public will be interested in depression and that the government and private funders will back it. All those things are terribly important. Q: You’ve written that manic-depressive (bipolar) illness brings not only suffering, but sometimes extraordinary creativity. Is there a danger that people won’t seek help for fear of losing something positive? A: Not everyone who is manic-depressive gets euphoric manias, but those who do are tempted to try to recapture that. The reality is that this is a potentially fatal illness that’s destructive to the individual, to society and to families. It’s complicated. People want something to be all bad or all good, but the fact is that some good things come out of mania. That’s just true. So you’ve got to deal with that. There is a legitimate issue of what are the effects of drugs on the imaginative mind. It hasn’t been studied enough. I do think productivity goes up if people are treated. Q: Many college-age people get depressed or even suicidal. How can a campus address the issue effectively? A: The ability of colleges and universities to treat depression and bipolar illness is hugely variable in terms of quality and resources. A lot of places do next to nothing. It has to come from the top. The president or chan-

cellor has to make a serious commitment to it. If it’s only student counseling services or student health committing to it, it’s like preaching to the choir. If you don’t put the resources in, commit to it and follow up, over and over and over again, it’s far less effective than it could be. Q: What can be done to prepare students who are going off to college at an age when they may first experience depression? A: It’s education. I have a colleague at Johns Hopkins who started a program in middle and high schools in which a doctor and nurse go out and talk to students, teachers and parents, and tell them what depression feels like and looks like. So when a young person encounters the symptoms later on, they may think, I remember that someone told me I might experience this, and they said it was treatable. Q: What can parents do? A: Be straight with their kids. One of the frustrations for a lot of us in the mental health field is when parents know that there is a family history of mania, or depression, or suicide, and they don’t talk to their kids about it. It’s very important to sit down and have a straightforward conversation and say, look, the odds are you aren’t going to get this, but if you do, it’s treatable, and we’re going to give you a list of doctors just in case you need somebody. And then keep the channels of communication open. Q: Has the stigma of mental illness lifted any, because of books like yours and more open discussion? A: I find the word “stigma” a little uncomfortable. It implies that there’s something to be stigmatized and, in a way, perpetrates it. I think people with mental illness actually are discriminated against. I do think there’s a little more understanding now. But I’ve learned in talking to college students who are depressed that what they see around them are a lot of very healthy kids, while they themselves can’t get out of bed, can’t think, can’t study, can’t compete. They feel different. Our responsibility is to get them into treatment.

Q: What is your take on UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge? A: It’s fantastic that UCLA is putting a focus on it. What’s wonderful about this initiative is that it’s vast, it’s ambitious. It’s not circumscribed or limited in its goals. Because of that, it’s much more likely to capture the imagination and find new ways to address depression and bipolar illness. Q: What does UCLA in particular bring to a project like this? A: UCLA is in the middle of a creative business, film and writing community. It would be wonderful to see a genuine collaboration between this community and UCLA’s experts in science, medicine, the humanities, arts, etc. That might lead to, for example, an ongoing series of seminars that could result in new ways to address depression and bipolar illness. The U.S. is blessed with a number of great medical schools and hospitals, but being in the middle of these creative communities is unique to UCLA. Q: Do you know of anything similar to this in scale? A: The genome project comes to mind, although far more money was involved. It was incredibly ambitious. So, of course, was the Manhattan Project. I think the ideas that take hold are those with vast ambitions, like going to the moon. Or Saturn. Q: What is the most effective way to get people to think differently about depression and bipolar illness? A: Make it interesting. The medical and public health communities have a remarkable capacity for making interesting topics dull. And yet these are fascinating illnesses; they’ve been around since we began as a species. I’m looking forward to seeing how this group of imaginative and highly educated people at UCLA, working with L.A.’s creative communities, can make a difference in how people think about it and what is done to address it.

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We have always pondered the mysteries of the mind. For the most part, the brain’s secrets have been beyond our grasp. But now, for the first time, we are beginning to unlock those mysteries. And the implications for all of us are extraordinary. By Jack Feuer I Illustration by Julia Breckenreid

CAPTAIN KIRK WAS WRONG. Space isn’t the final frontier. It is the human brain — inner space — that is truly the greatest mystery in the universe. But a true understanding of the brain has eluded our greatest thinkers for thousands of years. Within every human skull reside 100 billion nerve cells making 100 trillion connections, and this complexity has confounded researchers — until now. We are in the midst of a Golden Age of neuroscience, with advances fueled by technology and genetics emerging at an astounding pace. Not only have we begun to systematically map the undiscovered territory that is the brain, we also are making scientific breakthroughs almost seem routine. New understanding of and treatments for brain-related conditions and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism and depression are on the horizon or already here. And yet we have barely scratched the surface. Twenty-five years ago, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the ’90s the “Decade of the Brain.” Many discoveries were indeed made during the next 10 years, but they pale in comparison to what we are witnessing today. In 2013, President Barack Obama announced the launch of the Brain Initiative, with the aim of revolutionizing brain science. The sweeping initiative, often compared to the equally ambitious Human Genome Project, enlists dozens of technology companies and academic institutions, including UCLA. “The ’90s were dubbed the Decade of the Brain. I think

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it’s telling that we’ve dubbed the 21st century the Century of the Brain,” says UCLA Distinguished Professor of Biological Chemistry Lawrence Zipursky, who serves as director of the Neuroscience Theme in the David Geffen School of Medicine and chair of UCLA Neuroscience, a committee that coordinates neuroscience research initiatives across the campus. “It reflects this gradual appreciation of how complex the problems are in understanding the brain. It’s an extraordinary frontier, with wonderful tools that just get better and better. We’re at the beginning of the beginning.” A LONG BACKSTORY The current state of neuroscience notwithstanding, scientific study of the brain has a long history. Ancient history, actually. The first written account of the brain is contained within an ancient Egyptian medical text on trauma called the Edwin Smith Papyrus (named after the 19thcentury Egyptologist who bought it) and is thought to date back to 1600-1700 B.C. Roughly 1,200 years later, Hippocrates declared that the brain is where intelligence is located. Plato and Aristotle also weighed in, the former contending that the brain is where thinking resides and the latter saying the heart is where the mind is. It would be another 2,000 years or so before 17thcentury English physician Thomas Willis, considered the father of neuroscience, first used the word “neurology,”

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DAN GESCHWIND: AUTISM’S AUTEUR MORE THAN 3.5 MILLION PEOPLE in the U.S. battle with some form of autism. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 out of every 100 people worldwide suffers from autism spectrum disorder. So the search is on for a better understanding of, and new treatments for, this devastating disease. Few engaged in that effort can match the research being done at UCLA, particularly stateof-the-science study of the genetic cause of autism. As far back as the mid-20th century, UCLA was among the first major universities to engage in active research in the brain disorder. Today, that vital effort is led by renowned researcher Daniel Geschwind, Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of neurology, psychiatry and human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine and cofounder and director of UCLA’s Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART). “Dan is one of the pioneers of today’s serious molecular analysis of autism, not only in terms of genetics, but also of its implications for biology,” says Steve Hyman, director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Thomas R. Insel, who recently stepped down as head of the National Institute of Mental Health and is now part of Google’s life sciences team, says what makes Geschwind unique is that he is not only leading the study of the genomics of autism but is also creating new models of community engagement that have broadened the scope of autism research. One such model: the collaboration between UCLA and Special Needs Network, a South Los Angeles nonprofit that is addressing issues of autism and related developmental disabilities. A $10-million grant from the National Institutes of Health supports the work of Geschwind’s research team in studying the genetic causes of autism in the community. “Genetics varies by ethnicity and ancestry, so you want to understand it in as diverse a population as possible,” Geschwind explains. “I’m a geneticist with a laboratory, and it’s easy to stay isolated. But from a genetics standpoint, it’s critical to reach out.” He adds that in the future, CART will also be reaching out to other communities. In addition, Geschwind helped create the Autism and Genetics Research Exchange (AGRE), a DNA biobank that collects samples from a broad spectrum of people with autism and makes those samples widely available to the research community, now as a program of Autism Speaks. Geschwind’s impact is great on both peers and patients. Says Insel, “He is changing the culture of science and the way that we do genomics research.” — Claudia Luther

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and technologies are what make this and it wasn’t until 1878 that the first a Golden Age for neuroscience.” Ph.D. with the word “psychology” in its title was awarded, to Granville POWERFUL PRESENT, Stanley Hall at Harvard University. PROMISING FUTURE Hall went on to become the first An area of scientific inquiry as farpresident of the American Psychoranging as neuroscience — incorlogical Association. porating such disparate fields as Science kept at it, making discovcognitive science, biology, chemistry, eries apace about human behavior engineering, linguistics, mathematand the brain. “For about 70 years, ics, medicine, psychology, psychiabasic neuroscientists have studied try and even physics — demands the normal function of the brain and an interdisciplinary, collaborative disorders that affect it, and that’s approach. It is, in fact, tailor-made been tens of thousands of neuroscifor an institution like UCLA. entists,” notes pioneering neurosciThe university’s leadership goes entist and UCLA Vice Chancellor back to the founding of the UCLA of Health Sciences John Mazziotta. Brain Research Institute (BRI) in “There is an enormous amount of 1959. BRI unites neuroscientists information ready to be brought to across the campus, helping stoke the bear on disorders of the brain.” fires of medical discovery. For examAdvances in technology have ple, scientists at the Mary S. Easton enabled scientists to study the nerCenter for Alzheimer’s Disease vous system and the brain with Research at UCLA work with memgreater and greater precision. bers of the BRI and other research “The brain is almost the definition of Big Data,” says Kelsey Martin, and clinical programs to help turn technological breakthroughs into interim dean of the David Geffen treatments. As one of the first School of Medicine at UCLA and research institutions to use PET scans one of the world’s leading experts on to detect changes in the brain before learning and memory. “We are able to record from large numbers of neu- patients develop symptoms, UCLA has made great strides in understandrons in the brain, and we can now ing illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. begin to make sense of this informa“Using imaging, we can detect tion, thanks to the development of brain changes indicative of Alzheimcomputational tools for analyzing er’s years before onset in rare, inhervery large data sets. ited forms of the disease, paving the “Another component is the way to test experimental therapies,” advances made in human genetsays Mazziotta. ics, which have allowed the scienIn all, 500 UCLA scientists and tific community to investigate how scholars — more than in any other aspects of human behavior driven by discipline — work on brain science brain function are linked to genetic in Westwood. “We’re linked to physfactors. While the molecular biolics, chemistry, the [UCLA] Caliogy revolution of a half-century ago fornia NanoSystems Institute, and took us a long way, recent advances basic and clinical neuroscientists in optics, chemistry and large-scale on the same campus,” says Zipursky. recording technologies allow us to “UCLA has had decades of collegialnow look in real time at how neural ity, and that will become more and circuits function. These new tools





more important as neuroscience becomes increasingly team-based.” Indeed, neuroscience research in Westwood is broad and deep. UCLA is opening new avenues into the study of what memory is and of how mirror neurons shape our brand preferences. Among other initiatives, the university is forging links with public education in the area of brain science, including the implementation of a UCLA program in which high school students become “neuroscientists for a day.” The university has been a leader in brain imaging for almost a halfcentury. The UCLA Brain Injury Research Center was among the first in the nation to research posttraumatic stress disorder. The UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program is a pivotal player in the effort to diagnose and treat sports concussions. Most recently, thanks to a generous gift from Jim Easton ’59, UCLA established the Easton Labs for brain health. Their creation will include three new specialized units that will align neuroscience and engineering research in areas such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurodegenerative disease, sports and military-related head injuries, and more effective helmets for football players and members of the military. As the Golden Age progresses, neuroscience will transform society: Artificial limbs controlled by thought. Enhanced cognition. Drugs precisely targeted to individuals. Understanding of how external forces like poverty affect the brain. And a looming new responsibility. “Our brain is not just a reflection of our genetics but is also very much a reflection of our environment,” says Martin. “We have a social responsibility to make sure that environment is one in which human beings flourish.”

“We are integrating physical science approaches with molecular biology approaches and clinical neuroscience,” says Kelsey Martin, interim dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “This will put us in a great position to solve many of the ways the brain works.” Photograph by Timothy Archibald

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Depression ruins lives, destroys families and kills nearly a million people a year. Some say the problem is too intractable to address. Not so, say UCLA scientists, who have launched a historic effort to tackle and treat the world’s largest health problem. By Jack Feuer Photos by David Black

DISEASE, EPIDEMIC, CONDITION — whatever you want to call it, either you’ve suffered from depression or you know someone who has. In the U.S., 1 out of every 5 people will be diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. At UCLA, about 20 percent of the students on campus consult student health services about anxiety and depression. People who are depressed are not just sad. They are unable to do the simplest things, like get out of bed or go to the office. Michelle Craske, professor of psychology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the Anxiety and Depression Research Center at UCLA, says, “I think of depression as having two main components: A high level of negative effect — sadness, guilt. Another area present for many is that they cannot look forward to and savor positive events.” But this disease doesn’t only diminish quality of life. It kills.

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Every year, 30,000 people in the U.S. and 1 million people worldwide commit suicide, almost always because of depression. That’s more than the number of people who die from car accidents or homicide. Moreover, depression either increases the risk or worsens the outcome for millions of people suffering from the other deadly diseases that afflict us, including cancer and heart disease. There are also connections to conditions such as migraines and sleep deprivation. The more stressful and competitive society becomes, the more vulnerable we are to anxiety and depression, notes Peter Whybrow, best-selling author and director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. And yet we don’t really know what causes depression in its many forms. The treatments we have work only about half the time. Confounding the problem, many people still don’t even think of depression as a real disease.

Nelson Freimer, Maggie G. Gilbert Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences; director, UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics; director, Depression Grand Challenge; associate director, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

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“One of the most damaging things about depression is that it is a scarring, deepening wound that happens over time. That’s why it’s so essential that we identify individuals early on so we can prevent more devastating episodes later.”



“Depression devastates families, but the reason there hasn’t been more conversation about it is that there is a stigma attached to depression, even more than something like schizophrenia,” explains Nelson Freimer, Maggie G. Gilbert Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and associate director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “People who have schizophrenia are obviously disturbed. Depression often isn’t visible. There’s this idea that people who have depression are not really sick, they’re just not trying hard enough or they can snap out of it. Therefore, a lot of people with depression don’t talk about it. And as a society, we don’t talk about it for the same reason.” Given all that, it’s not surprising that the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden on the planet. If things remain the way they are, the scourge of depression is only going to get worse. Fortunately, things are not going to remain the way they are. THINK GRAND In October, UCLA announced the launch of the Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), by far the largest and most ambitious effort ever undertaken to understand and treat this devastating disease. The DGC unites more than 100 UCLA faculty in 25 departments, from neuroscience and medicine to computer science and psychology. The DGC is led by Freimer, and its

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high-powered executive committee includes Craske; S. Lawrence Zipursky, distinguished professor of biological chemistry, director of the Neuroscience Theme in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and chair of UCLA Neuroscience, a committee that coordinates neuroscience research initiatives across the campus; and Jonathan Flint, a renowned depression researcher and psychiatric geneticist who has left Oxford University to join UCLA. The Depression Grand Challenge is the second in a series of ambitious research projects united under the UCLA Grand Challenges program umbrella. The first, Sustainable LA, takes on the problem of meeting the city’s pressing need for energy and water independence while enhancing ecosystem health. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block calls the two Challenges “a new way of conducting research to solve the biggest problems of our society” and “the biggest, most collaborative and potentially most transformative efforts UCLA has undertaken to date.” They have to be. These are huge problems that affect everybody. They demand equally impressive responses that involve everyone. “Three years ago, 30 UCLA faculty from different areas of neuroscience got together to discuss this,” recalls Zipursky about the origins of the DGC, “and we were captivated by this idea of going after big problems. … We’re not waiting to deliver help to patients until we have the ‘cure.’ We’re doing genetic work. Basic science work. Clinical work.

And we’re dealing with the economic aspects, the stigma aspects. We don’t typically look at problems that way in academia.” Adds Whybrow, a member of the DGC Leadership Council, “The Grand Challenge is so important because it’s not just a study of biology and it’s not just a study of culture or economics. It’s a study of everything. It’s the first time that any university has tried to take on the continuum of depression, to say we need to know about the biology, we need to know more about the stressful environment. We need to know how they connect together. We need to know what factor age plays in depression. What role do hormones play? Why is it that some people manage to navigate these things much more easily than others?” STRENGTH IN NUMBERS The centerpiece of this massive, multi-element project is a genetic study of 100,000 patients, the largest in history for a single disorder. It will include people without depression, some at risk for it and some who already are clinically depressed. They will be chosen from the vast University of California (UC) system, including students, faculty, staff and patients enrolled in the UC health care system. Project participants will undergo a complete DNA sequencing and be treated and monitored for 10-15 years in an effort to illuminate both the genetic and the environmental causes of depression. The study will be co-led by Freimer and Flint, who spearheaded

Michelle Craske, vice chair, UCLA Department of Psychology; professor, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences; director, Anxiety and Depression Research Center at UCLA

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“The big clues of mechanisms for depression, I believe, will come from genetics. They will give us genes that contribute to the risk of depression. Then we need to know what those genes do.”



the largest genetic study of depression to date, in which the genomes of 12,000 severely depressed Han Chinese women were sequenced. Unlike in China, where investigators went to great lengths to ensure that the subjects were remarkably homogenous, the UCLA study will provide the extraordinary diversity that is a hallmark of life in L.A. “What’s made this possible is the idea that depression isn’t intractable,” says Flint. “[But] someone has to take responsibility for setting it up [for study]. A sample of this size is immensely ambitious, and it will rewrite some of the ground rules of how we do the science. It makes us focus very clearly on what is expected of us. We are part of the community, too. This is stakeholder science. And I have enormous respect for UCLA for taking this on.” A set of rigorously reviewed twoyear demonstration projects, funded with early investment from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, will begin in the late summer or early fall of 2016. These will establish feasibility and mitigate risks for the study, and also produce high-impact early scientific results. Already, seven demonstration projects are under way, focusing on such aspects of depression as measuring mood disorder risk and the shared mechanisms of depression and migraines. It typically takes anywhere from three to six weeks for most antidepressive medicines to have a noticeable effect. But some treatments work more rapidly. One demo project will study biomarkers of these

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fast-acting treatments for major depression. They include methods for treating the disease such as ketamine, sleep deprivation and electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT). The latter changed the life of author, social worker and mental health activist Kitty Dukakis, wife of former presidential candidate, Massachusetts governor and, since 1991, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs fellow Michael Dukakis. She wrote about her experience with ECT treatments in her 2006 book Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy. “It saved my life,” Dukakis says. “I’m very concerned that there is too much emphasis placed on medication and talk therapy. Many times they don’t work. They didn’t with me. The stigma [about ECT] is still out there. But every day I get calls from people here and in Europe about ECT.” Another major element of the DGC is the creation of an Innovation Treatment Center to develop new and more effective ways to treat depression and to implement cutting-edge diagnostic and treatment approaches. Independent companies are already reaching out to collaborate with DGC researchers to harness emerging technology such as virtual reality to explore new behavioral treatments for depression. The project also will pursue discoveries in neuroscience to help us understand the brain’s role in depressive disorders and to develop ways to dismantle the stigma of depression. The DGC will be supported by a robust social media campaign,

soliciting support for the effort on social networks. Turning the negative perception of “being blue” into a positive message of hope, the campaign is connected via the hashtag #blueforhope. Much attention is paid to the thirst for knowledge as a motivation for academics. The Depression Grand Challenge offers that in abundance. But there’s much more at play — the prospect of alleviating suffering and bringing hope to millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of people. “Most scholars in the university will tell you that their work is aimed at understanding what it means to be a human being,” says Kelsey Martin, interim dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and co-chair of the DGC’s Leadership Council. “What it means to build a civilization. Live in a society. Understand depression. It is a noble quest for those reasons.” “We may not be able to entirely eliminate the burden of depression,” concludes Freimer. “It’s part of the human condition. Our goal, as with other aspects of the human condition, is to make depression manageable. So it doesn’t cause people to lose their jobs. It doesn’t cause people to lose their families. And it doesn’t cause people to commit suicide. The opposite of depression isn’t being happy. The opposite of depression is being well.”

Larry Zipursky, distinguished professor, biological chemistry; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; chair, Neuroscience Theme in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; chair, UCLA Neuroscience

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future thinking John Mazziotta, who grew up in Westchester County, New York, and attended Columbia University, planned to become an architect. But when the demand for architecture declined near the end of the Vietnam War, he switched to molecular biology and decided to go to medical school. There, he discovered a different kind of blueprint — a map of the human brain — and he was hooked. The founding director of UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center is now vice chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences. And he’s still in awe of the brain and its complicated choreography. Q: After wanting to be an architect, what attracted you to neuroscience? A: I started with molecular biology, which I found really interesting, but being in a lab was too isolating. So I went to medical school so I could also treat patients. A professor I met who was a neuroscientist had a project that I found interesting. Q: What was the project? A: She wanted to make 3-D reconstructions of nerve cells by tracing each section on a piece of Lucite and then stacking them up. I said, “You can do that with computers now.” I got involved with the biophysics people, who were building the first CT scanner, which didn’t require a water interface between the scanner and the subject — limiting the images to the head region. By developing a system of shutters, the rest of the body could be scanned. I was hooked on the nervous system and particularly imaging, so I decided to do neurology and, ultimately, brain mapping. Q: What makes a great brain researcher? A: The same as that which makes any great scientist. You have to be curious, pay extraordinary attention to detail, look at the raw data all the time. You have to have a high

the founding director of UCLa’s ahmansonLovelace Brain Mapping Center has brought his keen sense of form and function to a new post, overseeing the campus’ huge medical enterprise. By Mary Daily

threshold for frustration, because scientific research is tedious. You have to have that drive to find answers to questions that currently don’t have any. Q: What’s your favorite part of the brain? A: The cortex, the outer surface of the cerebrum, because it’s the largest. It probably does most of the computations that result in human behavior. We don’t know why it folds the way it does, but the folding is unique to individuals, like a fingerprint. In the cortex is the basis for why people are human and for all of our behaviors. Q: What causes disorders like depression? A: We don’t know, but it’s all about the wiring and the firing. Sometimes, in different diseases you find that the structure of the brain is altered, but in mental illness, we haven’t consistently seen that. So schizophrenia, depression, bipolar illness — these are likely chemical abnormalities, functional abnormalities or something that’s wrong with the choreography of the firing and how the cells talk to one another. Most mental illnesses can be mimicked by people taking drugs and most of them can be treated with drugs, so there must be a chemical basis. Q: Do brain games work, or are we wasting our time with crossword puzzles and such? A: There’s not a lot of good evidence for that, and it’s not easy to test. We do know that the more educated you are, the more resistant you are to dementia. That may just be that you have made more connections — and more efficient connections — over a longer period of time, so it takes longer to wear those down, but we don’t know.

When it comes to the human brain, there’s much more we don’t know than we do know, says Mazziotta. “The potential [of brain research] is so vast that, to me, it’s the most exciting of

Q: What exactly is brain mapping? A: Brain mapping uses the various devices that we have to gather information about the human brain in health

the fields of medicine.” Photograph by Timothy Archibald

continued on page 45

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Brain mapping enables scientists to see in real time the processes — both normal and aberrant — at work inside our heads. The results could mean breakthrough treatments for some of the world’s most devastating diseases.


By Robin Keats • Photos by Spencer Lowell

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With each succeeding generation of scanners, says Roger Woods, researchers can revisit problems they may have missed with an MRI or CT scan 20 years earlier. Photograph by


Timothy Archibald

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A WOMAN WITH MAJOR DEPRESSION lies as motionless as she can, her head inside the doughnut hole of an MRI scanner that clangs, beeps, chirps and buzzes as it captures images of her brain’s neural activity. She’s wearing headphones so she can listen to Pandora. However, brain mappers can see on their computer screens what’s going on in her head. They are measuring her brain’s structure, shape, chemistry and function before treating her with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A few days after the treatment, they’ll map her again, to compare the before and after. Two hundred miles per hour is the top speed of signals that pass between active neurons, the cells that process and transmit information through electrical and chemical signals. Billions of them are at work in our heads, many firing off at any given time. At the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center (ALBMC), scientists map the paths those neurons take and the networks they form with high-tech scanners, enabling the study of a vast array of processes going on in our brains. These include — among many others — sleep, learning, aging and memory, and the aberrant activities caused by such afflictions as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, autism, clinical depression and brain injuries. Brain mapping was named one of this decade’s “10 Big Ideas of Brain Science” by Scientific American Mind, and UCLA has been in the forefront since the beginning. In 1993, John Mazziotta, now vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, proposed what became the ALBMC. Today, the center is a global resource for studying the human brain through state-of-the-art equipment, experienced technicians and a talented faculty with expertise that ranges from the clinic to the physics of instrumentation to computer science and algorithm development. “ALBMC is the ideal place for studying the human brain using the most modern equipment, but more importantly for providing vivid interaction with worldleading staff scientists and experienced technicians,” says Karl Zilles, senior professor of brain research at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at the Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany, who has collaborated with scientists at the center. He says ALBMC is “one of the few leading centers worldwide, and an indispensable place for research and collaboration among neuroscientists.” Brain mapping can be likened to tracking a skyful of jets in flight from one airline hub to another. The more detailed the map, the more visible are the patterns that develop in the flight paths and, particularly, the way the patterns change during peaks of activity. The overall patterns of activity are what brain mappers try to understand because they indicate the effects of such things as electrical stimulation, drugs, disease and diet on neural activity. ALBMC’s Mayank Mehta, professor of physics and

astronomy, neurology and neurobiology, cites three key challenges that mappers face in determining these changes. “The first,” he says, “is the ability to get suitably high spatial resolution images of the active neurons at high speed, about a thousandth of a second; the second is in translating this vast and complex data using mathematics to make sense of it; and the third is linking all this to behavior.” Roger Woods, ALBMC’s director, paints a picture of this process: “You can have a person in the scanner and give them some task to do and then identify, by the changes in the picture, the parts of the brain that are engaged in that task. With each succeeding generation of high-tech scanners, researchers can go back and revisit some disease, some problem that maybe they saw nothing of when they did an MRI or CT scan 20 years ago. And now something can be revealed. It’s what lets us ask new questions we could never begin to ask before.” ANSWERS BEGET QUESTIONS As with other forays into the unknown, the deeper the look into the brain, the more there is to be discovered. The scope, specificity and overlay of the various studiesin-progress require teamwork. And there is a line-up of highly specialized teams engaged in research at ALBMC, such as one that develops novel algorithms for processing magnetic resonance imaging data. Without that, no maps. One of the teams that Mehta leads has tackled several problems by following their neural pathways. “A key brain region, called the hippocampus, is implicated in several disorders such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, schizophrenia and depression,” he says. “The question is how. To solve this, we are mapping hippocampal circuit and developing sophisticated mathematical techniques to decipher the data.” Mehta has also pioneered the use of virtual reality in mapping, which led to a surprising discovery. “We’ve found that 60 percent of the hippocampus neurons shut down when we map the brain of a subject navigating in a virtual reality world, and learning-related brain rhythms are altered. This has profound implications,” he says. Another team of scientists from the ALBMC and UCLA’s Division of Digestive Diseases collaborated to discover that bacteria ingested in food have an impact on brain function. They found that dietary changes can alter the signals from the intestines to the brain. This knowledge is expected to help scientists develop new prevention and treatment strategies for digestive, mental and neurological disorders. Future research aims to answer whether people with bloating, abdominal pain and altered bowel movements show improvements in their symptoms that correlate with changes in brain response. Another technology being very actively researched is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), the use of





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DEAN BUONOMANO: DEBUGGING THE BRAIN “NEUROSCIENCE IS ARGUABLY the most complex and interdisciplinary field of all scientific endeavors,” says Dean Buonomano, professor of neurobiology and psychology in UCLA’s Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience (NS-IDP). “It involves molecular biology, biochemistry, computer science, electrical engineering and physics. It’s hard to get a grasp on all its different aspects. Our goal is to communicate the niches we work on to the public, which is a challenge.” That was Buonomano’s objective with his first book, 2011’s Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives, in which he offers insights into why we humans have biases in our decision-making, why memories are fallible and why we don’t always remember everything we’d like to at a mechanistic level. The follow-up to Brain Bugs, tentatively titled Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time, is due for release in 2016. Time Machine will explore the brain’s ability to tell time as an inherent, intrinsic property of neural circuits. Topics will range from how we tell time and think about it to the very nature of time. “In many ways, the brain is a type of time machine — it allows us to not only tell time, but to travel in time,” says Buonomano. “You can reminisce about your past or dream about your potential future. That’s one of the most unique aspects of the human brain.” Buonomano’s curiosity drove him to pursue an interest in neuroscience as a child. “There’s just this fascination with an organ that essentially is made out of the same composition as the heart or liver, yet allows us to carry on conversations, laugh, or recognize someone by their gait, face and voice,” he says. Add the curious neuroscientist’s interest in the nature of time, and mysteries such as “predicting the future” unfold. “Really, one of the brain’s main functions is to predict what is about to happen next,” Buonomano says. “The degree to which we can do that translates into the currency of evolutionary fitness. How that’s achieved is a mystery, and a fundamental mystery at that.” ­—­Bekah­Wright

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magnets to affect neural patterns. Scientists know that it works, but understanding how, they say, will likely be of great benefit to people with movement disorders. The initial research progressed so rapidly that the Food and Drug Administration approved TMS as a treatment for severe depression in 2008. Now, an ALBMC team is studying its use in treating Parkinson’s disease, atypical Parkinsonism syndromes and dystonia. Because it’s noninvasive, TMS is considered a possible future alternative to deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s patients. If it proves to be so, brain mapping will have played a major role in the achievement. DEPRESSION: UNDERDIAGNOSED, UNDERTREATED Depression is the research province of Katherine Narr Ph.D. ’02, associate professor of neurology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. One of her quests is to identify the biomarkers of treatment response. Studying changes in the brain — as well as in gene expression, immune response and inflammation — she and her team focus on understanding why and how some people respond to treatment, while others don’t. “Depression has been underdiagnosed and undertreated,” she says [see related story, page 24]. “That’s changing, because we are now identifying biomarkers that may not only predict who will be treatment-responsive, but also help us design more effective treatments to improve the lives of patients and their families.” She points to then-and-now time factors in mapping the brain’s structure. “Five years ago, to get a quality picture of it, I would have someone in a scanner for half an hour. Now, I get an even better quality result in five minutes,” she says. It used to take twice as long to set all the gradients needed to map a brain’s connections. The ever-increasing speed of scanners is also expected to significantly reduce health care costs. WIDE OPEN TO EXPLORATION With so many goals being pursued, Woods takes a long pause before citing an example. “One that’s on our agenda is trying to get into a situation where we can image people with implanted brain stimulators, like those being used in Parkinson’s research, so we can see, specifically, what the stimulator is doing. It’s very blackbox right now.” So much concerning the exploration and mapping of the mind is not yet known. But that proverbial “black box,” in which so many mysteries were once hopelessly locked, is now opening at UCLA.

The UCLA AhmansonLovelace Brain Mapping Center is a global resource for studying the human brain through stateof-the-art equipment, experienced technicians and a talented faculty.

october 2015 ucla magazine 00

Neuroscience Research Building represent the powerful digital technologies enabling unprecedented storage and analysis of data about the brain.

38 ucla magazine january 2016


Servers in the

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00 ucla magazine october 2015

heads up

Thirty years ago, when athletes hit their heads, they were expected to “suck it up” and get back into the game. Today, however, with constant news reports about high school athletes collapsing after vicious hits and former professional football players suing the NFL over brain injuries — not to mention the tragic stories of traumarelated retired football player suicides — sports concussions are finally on the front burner. By Wendy Soderburg ’82

A young RobeRt De niRo, his face battered and bruised by too many rounds in the boxing ring, glares at you from a wall in Christopher Giza’s office. The famous image from 1980’s Raging Bull seems an appropriate choice for Giza, a UCLA professor of pediatric neurology and neurosurgery who has spent most of his medical career helping patients suffering from head injuries. Three years ago, Giza established the BrainSPORT (Sports concussion, Prevention, Outreach, Research and Treatment) Program to provide multidisciplinary, research-based treatment for sports concussions in young athletes. Last year, BrainSPORT — housed within the Department of Neurosurgery at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine — received a huge boost from philanthropist Steve Tisch, co-owner of the New York Giants and an Academy Award-winning film producer (Forrest Gump, Risky Business). Tisch’s $10-million pledge, Giza says, has enabled

the newly renamed UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program to secure its programmatic goals. BrainSPORT has hired its first program manager, set up its third concussion clinic (the Steve Tisch Clinic), welcomed its first two endowed fellows and appointed three associate directors. “We hear a lot about traumatic brain injury and sports concussions in professional and collegiate athletes, and of course as an NFL owner this is of particular concern to me,” says Tisch, whose interest in neurosurgery began in 2004, when his father was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. “But we hear a lot less about pediatric traumatic brain injury, and it is the single greatest cause of death and disability among children and young adults in the United States. I look forward to a day when the issues facing some adult former athletes as a result of head injuries and concussions no longer exist because of the work being done at UCLA and their focus on young people.”

(Opposite page) “There are common things that you look for in an athlete who has taken a big hit,” says Chris Giza. “When I grew up, if you were knocked out, that’s all we looked for.” Photograph by Timothy Archibald

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Athletes, especially young ones, may not always speak up when they have concussion symptoms. Helmets fitted with sensors (like the one Chris Giza is holding, above) can measure the forces that athletes’ heads are receiving. Top two photos: Elena Zhukova Bottom photo: Getty Images

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INSIde a CoNCuSSIoN A concussion is essentially a brain-movement injury, Giza explains. The brain “floats” in fluid in the skull. “When the head or the skull accelerates or decelerates rapidly, the brain, which is kind of like firm Jell-O, moves and twists and kind of bounces around in there,” he says. “And, just like Jell-O on a plate, when one part shifts in relation to the other, the connections that go from one part of the brain to another get stretched or damaged.” There is no hole in the brain, nor is there bruising or blood, Giza says. “The function of the brain is damaged, but mostly intact. We know that for the most part, with time, those biological processes can repair themselves. And most people do get better from an individual concussion.” Giza credits the lab work of his colleague and mentor, David Hovda, with leading to the discovery that a person who suffers a single concussion will get better over time, if the brain is given time to recover. In fact, Hovda — who first came to UCLA as a postdoc in 1985 — won an NIH grant in 1990 to create the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center (BIRC), of which BrainSPORT is an offshoot. He is the BIRC’s first and only director. “The treatment of brain injuries and concussions really has changed only in terms of management and recognition,” Hovda says. “The problem was that there were many organizations like the National Football League and the National Hockey League and the military and others that just didn’t realize what concussions were and how you would recognize them. Over the last 10 years, that has changed significantly.” This, too, can be credited to Hovda, who has spent a lot of time over the last two decades talking to members of the World Boxing Council and the National Football League and appearing before the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon to help them understand concussions. “Each of these [organizations] was in a state of denial. Concussion was a ‘psychological’ problem; it wasn’t a neuroscience problem,” says Hovda, who was given the Strength of the Nation Award from the U.S. Army for his efforts on behalf of military personnel. “But because of our imaging, we were able to show them a picture of what a human concussion looked like, and this changed the real culture about what concussion was. Now, in the United States, there are laws.” One of these is the Lystedt Law (2009), named after junior high school football player Zackery Lystedt, who was permanently disabled after sustaining a concussion and prematurely returning to the game. Now, Hovda says, concussion protocols exist. If players are suspected of having a concussion, they are removed from play, diagnosed and not allowed to return to the field until they are cleared by a certified health-care provider. eduCaTINg The MaSSeS Besides treating patients, BrainSPORT has an equally important mission: to teach young athletes and their parents how to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion. According to Giza,

DaviD EisEnbErg: HEaD anD HEart

Athletes in contAct sports, such as football and boxing, where brain injuries are common, are particularly susceptible to such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and various other dementias, says UCLA Professor David Eisenberg. These so-called amyloid diseases are the focus of Eisenberg’s research. The diseases are caused by proteins that aggregate into fibers. Part of what Eisenberg studies is the tau protein, found in Alzheimer’s and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which also afflicts athletes. “It’s believed that concussions suffered by athletes and others can aggregate tau into the amyloid state and cause this neurodegenerative disease,” he says. “So by studying tau and its formation of amyloid fibers, we’re also studying Alzheimer’s, CTE and numerous other dementias.” Eisenberg, who teaches biochemistry and molecular biology, chose to study amyloid diseases because, as a scientist, he wanted to contribute to the improvement of human health. His father, a pediatrician, had hoped his son would come into his medical practice. But his dad “was just so good at what he did, there was no way I could ever equal his concern [for] and attention to children,” Eisenberg says. “So I went into science, having been convinced by my undergraduate supervisor that you could do as much for human health by working in biochemistry as by being a doctor.” Eisenberg came to UCLA in 1969, with degrees from Harvard and Oxford and postdoctoral studies at Princeton and Caltech. He was eager to work with Paul Boyer, founding director of UCLA’s Molecular Biology Institute. Now the Paul D. Boyer Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Eisenberg first worked as a structural biologist, studying proteins and how they interact and bind to one another. Then he looked around for a field where he could use the tools he had to make a contribution to improving human health, and found amyloid diseases. The ultimate goal of the research, of course, is to find treatments and cures. To that end, Eisenberg and his team already have “learned to design inhibitors of the formation of these amyloid aggregates. We hope these inhibitors can be made into drugs.” — Sandy Siegel ’72

“We’re still really at the beginning of understanding this. But if there’s one message I want spread, it’s ‘Protect your brain.’ You only get one of them.”

after an athlete takes a big hit, the brain goes into a state of energy crisis and doesn’t function properly, prompting outward signs and symptoms that are able to be seen. “Less than 10 percent of clinically diagnosed concussions involve loss of consciousness,” Giza says. “The other 90 percent have headaches, light sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, incoordination, disorientation, slowed reflexes, slowed thinking. And when the brain is in this energy crisis, it’s just biologically more vulnerable to another injury. So if you get a second injury, and you’re already kind of teetering energetically, it could really tip you over into taking much longer to get better.” For those parents who are interested in knowing which sports have the highest rates of concussion, Giza keeps a list. He places boxing, mixed martial arts and cage fighting at the top, although these sports do not publish injury reports. These are followed by high-risk sports such as tackle football, rugby, boys’ lacrosse, and boys’ and girls’ ice hockey. At intermediate risk are contact sports such as soccer, basketball and water polo. (These sports differ from “collision” sports, in which hitting each other is part of the game. In “contact” sports, hitting each other is incidental to the game.) Finally, the low-risk sports include baseball, softball, track and field, and swimming, although Giza says he sees concussions in these sports, too. What may come as a surprise is that the rate of concussions for women soccer players is higher than that for the men. UCLA Women’s Head Soccer Coach Amanda Cromwell suggests that it might be due to women’s lack of core body strength or even a lack of stability in the neck muscles, although she didn’t find that to be true of her own team. “We’re actually below the national average [in number of concussions],” she says. In Cromwell’s three years as UCLA’s head coach, her teams have had six concussions. “It’s part of the game,” she says, matter-of-factly. “It’s like any injury. Just as with any contact sport, especially a sport with a ball that’s moving at high velocity. You have contact with the ground, other heads, potentially the goalpost. So there are many incidents that could take place or cause a head injury.” CuTTINg-edge CoLLaBoraTorS The 15 core members of Giza’s BrainSPORT team work

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closely with several other groups, including the Brain Injury Research Center, the Division of Pediatric Neurology at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, the Division of Neuropsychology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and the Sports Medicine Program in the Department of Family Medicine. John DiFiori, chief of the Division of Sports Medicine and head team physician for UCLA Athletics, has joined Giza in leading the university’s participation in the Grand Alliance initiative, launched last year by the NCAA and the Department of Defense. Called the most comprehensive study of concussion and head-impact exposure ever conducted, the three-year, $30-million effort aims to enroll 37,000 student-athletes. Participants receive an extensive preseason evaluation for concussion and are monitored in the event of an injury. So far, the Grand Alliance has conducted between 7,500 and 10,000 baseline assessments and has logged in more than 300 concussions. Chosen for its multidisciplinary expertise in the care of concussions, particularly in imaging, UCLA was one of three original institutions in the study’s Advanced Research Core, according to DiFiori. UCLA has two sports participating in the Advanced Research Core — football and men’s and women’s soccer. Participation, which is voluntary, involves blood draws (to look for serum biomarkers, or blood proteins) and multimodal MRI scans. “These are not your routine MRIs,” DiFiori says. “These are MRIs that detect microstructural injury in the brain, metabolic disturbance in the brain, and brain activation. This is cutting-edge stuff.” Football players have the added option of wearing helmet sensors that measure the forces that their heads (and theoretically their brains) are feeling. The study also includes a Clinical Study Core that involves all UCLA athletes, who have undergone clinical baseline testing and will be monitored all year for concussions. Giza says, “We don’t know all the answers, and we’re still really at the beginning of understanding this. But if there’s one message I want spread, it’s ‘Protect your brain.’ You only get one of them. And if you suspect that your athlete has had a concussion, sit ’em out. It’s a recoverable injury, if you identify and treat it properly.” <

FUTURE THINKING continued FRoM page 31

and disease, both structural and functional. The structural mapping has to do with the anatomy of the brain, so if you compared it to a map of the Earth, that would be the mountains, railroad tracks, oceans, valleys and highways. Function would be things that are always changing, such as the weather, crime rate, air pollution. And while the Earth is pretty much the same structurally every day, no two brains are the same. Q: How much progress have we made in brain imaging, and what do you hope for the future? A: There’s been unbelievable progress in my lifetime. When I started in medicine, the images weren’t images of the brain but of the spaces around the brain from pneumoencephalograms, where you put air into the ventricle around the brain — a painful and unpleasant procedure — or the blood vessels from angiograms, where you could look at the arteries and veins in the head. Next came CT scanning, where you could actually see the brain and its structure, and then PET scanning and MRI scanning. We’ll continue to get better and better noninvasive information. Q: How would you describe the state of brain science today? A: Neuroscience will be to the 21st century what physics and molecular biology were to the first and second halves of the 20th century. Everything is teed up to make neuroscience the breakthrough area of at least the first 50 years of the 21st century. But it’s a tough time to get funding from traditional sources, particularly the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and biotech and pharmaceutical companies have moved away from basic neuroscience research. At UCLA, we’ve funded significant amounts of neuroscience research philanthropically, and that’s helpful because it’s different dollars. Traditional funding is very incremental. But with philanthropic dollars, if somebody has a really great idea and it works, then the whole field advances. Q: What have been the most difficult mysteries to uncover? A: They’re all difficult, and there are not all that many that we’ve figured out. Biology and neuroscience are data-driven. People do experiments, get data and try to make sense of it based on known facts. That’s different from, say, physics, where experiments prove

or disprove theories. In neuroscience, there’s a hypothesis rather than an overarching theory. It would be helpful to have that component of neuroscience emerge. It’s starting. Q: What are the most important discoveries to date? A: Knowledge of the microscopic and gross organization of the brain gathered over the last 150 years has been critical to understanding how things are connected and where they go. The discovery of prions — proteins that can cause diseases like Mad Cow and could be implicated in other neurodegenerative diseases. And place and grid cells — networks in the part of the brain that has to do with remembering and organizing material for recall and preservation. A third would be mirror neurons. When you watch me do something, areas in your brain mimic that, and that’s one way by which we learn. When that’s disconnected from other areas, it may cause different disorders of development, possibly autism or components of it, or other things. Q: What has been UCLA’s contribution to brain science? A: UCLA has been a major player, one of the first to have a brain research institute. We have one of the largest neuroscience faculties anywhere — more than 500. It’s the single largest discipline on campus, and discoveries and information from that group have informed all aspects of neuroscience. Q: Where do you see the greatest potential for breakthroughs in the study of the mind? A: We need a theoretical framework of how the brain and the nervous system work, and then we need to test those theories based on the information we have today and the experiments of tomorrow. When we bring in people who are trained as physicists or mathematicians, they bring this theoretical approach to problem solving to the science of the nervous system. So we’ve started a neurophysics program here, in conjunction with the Division of Physical Sciences. I think we’ll get a lot of interesting results out of that. The techniques available today are just extraordinary. The optogenetics, where you can engineer circuits in the brain to respond to light and fire on command with certain wavelengths of light. These kinds of methodologies will give us great insights into how the brain works and fails. There’s plenty to do, but there’s been a lot of progress in all these different windows into the nervous system.



Set in a sun-dappled grove of pine and fir trees, the UCLA Faculty Center is a quiet and attractive setting for your wedding ceremony and reception. Exchange vows on our Rose Garden Patio, or in one of our elegant and spacious rooms. View photos of past weddings at facultycenter.ucla.edu/Photo-Gallery/ Weddings-Gallery.aspx or call 310-825-0877. Wedding packages are available for up to 250 guests and include gourmet meals and a full bar.

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PICK YOUR BRAIN SCIENCE. We’re sure one or more of the remarkable endeavors covered in this special themed issue of UCLA Magazine ignite your interest. We invite you to give to help UCLA keep discovering new paths in brain research.

The Modern Mismatch page 14

Help experts at the Semel Institute continue to shed light on the path toward mental health. Contact Alan Han at ahan@support.ucla.edu.

Honoring Adolescence page 16

Surprised and thrilled that the teenage brain actually can be understood? To help teens and others thrive in contemporary culture, contact Alan Han at ahan@support.ucla.edu.

Get the Picture page 32

You can help brain-mapping scientists discover more about how brain structure affects function. Explore how by contacting Pamela Thompson at pthompson@support.ucla.edu.

Heads Up page 40

Help protect young people from sports- and non-sports-related traumatic brain injury. Contact Karen Colimore at kcolimore@support.ucla.edu to join the team.

Have some other interest on your mind? Visit GiveTo.UCLA.edu to see what you can let there be.


An exclusive Bruin guide to the season’s best in UCLA arts and culture, entertainment and sports. For more UCLA events, visit www.happenings.ucla.edu.



Roz Chast: “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” Beloved New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast reads from her memoir, which recounts her experience caring for her aging parents. SPORTS

Men’s Basketball: UCLA vs. Arizona The Bruins take on last year’s Pac-12 champions, the Arizona Wildcats, in a highly anticipated match-up. ALUMNI EVENTS

UCLA ONE The new UCLA ONE website offers integrated ways for alumni to engage with the UCLA career community.

january 2016 ucla magazine 47


Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall This presentation of scratch DJ and music producer Kid Koala’s graphic novel Nufonia Must Fall features a romance between two robots. The live adaptation will unfold via the real-time filming

of more than a dozen intricately crafted miniature stage settings in which a cast of puppets interact. Kid Koala and the Afiara Quartet provide live scoring on piano, strings and turntables, tugging on heartstrings and moving the story forward. Tickets: $19-$49 Phone: (310) 825-2101 Web: www.cap.ucla.edu


Catherine Opie: Portraits UCLA Professor Catherine Opie, who finds inspiration from subjects as diverse as surfers and President Obama’s first inauguration, is known for capturing evocative images of contemporary America. This exhibition of her photography features 12 portraits of sitters emerging from the darkness to create striking works of art. Admission: Free Phone: (310) 443-7000 Web: www.hammer.ucla.edu

FEB. 21–MAY 15


FEB. 9 / TUES / 8 P.M. ROYCE HALL JAN. 31 / SUN / 4 P.M.

Roz Chast: “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” Roz Chast is a cartoonist known and loved for her brilliant interpretations of the everyday. Her cartoons depict neuroses, hilarity, angst and domesticity and are loaded with words, objects and patterns. The New Yorker has published more than 1,000 of them since 1978. In this performance, she will read from her memoir, which recounts her experience caring for her aging parents. In a narrative rife with both laughter and tears, this evening will showcase the full range of Chast’s talent as a cartoonist and storyteller. Location: Royce Hall Tickets: $19-$49 Phone: (310) 825-2101 Web: www.cap.ucla.edu

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Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 plus Red Baraat: Mardi Gras Bhangra Legendary New Orleans pianist Henry Butler, trumpeter/arranger Steven Bernstein and a New Orleans rhythm section come together for this Mardi Gras performance. The team will use a traditional New Orleans palate as a launching point, but will also explore everything from pre-jazz to thoughtful, yet fearless, improvisations. Tickets: $29-$59 Phone: (310) 825-2101 Web: www.cap. ucla.edu


Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 Black Mountain College (BMC) was a renowned experimental college that placed the arts at the center of a liberal arts education in an effort to better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society. This exhibition displays works of art from BMC and will showcase how the college served as an influential meeting place for many artists who would become principal practitioners in the post-WWII period. Admission: Free Phone: (310) 443-7000 Web: www.hammer.ucla.edu


Barcelona When a young American tourist has a wild night out with an elegant Spaniard, what begins as a drunken fling becomes a searing and seductive look at two lost souls seeking solace in each other. Bess Wohl’s biting humor uncovers the individual tragedies and triumphs that build us up as well as tear us down in the West Coast premiere of this play. Tickets: $32-$82 Phone: (310) 208-5454 Web: www.geffenplayhouse.com


Women’s Basketball: UCLA vs. Stanford The 2014-2015 season probably didn’t go exactly as planned for Head Coach Cori Close. The team finished 19-18 overall, including a sub-.500 8-10 in conference play. But Close’s team finished on a high note, defeating West Virginia in the finals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Bruins return four starters from a year ago — senior guard Nirra Fields, junior point guard Kari Korver, sophomore guard Jordin Canada and senior forward Kacy Swain — and feature a top-10 recruiting class that includes Kennedy Burke from Northridge, Calif., and Ashley Hearn from Rowlett, Texas. Tickets: $12 adult (reserved); $10 youth (reserved); $8 adult (general admission); $5 youth (general admission); free for children 2 and under; free for students with BruinCard Phone: (310) UCLA–WIN Web: www.uclabruins.com


Gymnastics: UCLA vs. Utah When UCLA and Utah competed last season in the Pac-12 championships, they together witnessed Utes senior Tory Wilson tear her right Achilles tendon and break her left foot. Instead of viewing Wilson’s injuries as an opportunity to win, Valorie Kondos Field’s Bruins saw an opportunity to display true sportsmanship as they made it a point to cheer and encourage the remaining Utah competitors. Utah took the league championship, while the Bruins earned the 2015 Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award for what Utah Head Coach Megan Marsden called “the classiest display of sportsmanship I have ever seen from an opponent during a competition.” This season, the Bruins will miss NCAA champion Samantha Peszek but will return three All-Americans: Sadiqua Bynum, Christine Peng-Peng Lee and Danusia Francis. Tickets: $20 floor level (reserved); $16 middle level (general admission); $8 upper level (general admission); free for children 2 and under Phone: (310) UCLA–WIN Web: www.uclabruins.com


Men’s Tennis: UCLA vs. USC Junior Mackenzie McDonald earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honors last season, playing at the No. 1 position in both singles and doubles for the Bruins. He ended his sophomore cam-

paign with a team-high 29 singles victories and led the team with 20 wins over ranked opponents. In UCLA’s NCAA Round of 16 match with top-ranked Oklahoma, McDonald upset the nation’s No. 1 singles player, Axel Alvarez, in straight sets and earned All-America honors for the second year in a row. McDonald returns in 2016, as does sophomore Martin Redlicki, a 2015 all-conference, second-team selection who racked up 26 singles wins a year ago. Tickets: Free Phone: (310) UCLA–WIN Web: www.uclabruins.com


Softball: UCLA vs. Washington UCLA’s final game of 2015 was one to remember — and one to forget. The Bruins fell to Auburn, 11-10, in 10 innings in a nationally televised game that had UCLA fans on edge from coast to coast. But that game does not define the 2015 Bruins, a team that returned to Oklahoma City and posted its second consecutive 50-win season, the first time since 2002-2003 UCLA has done it. Kelly Inouye-Perez and her staff earned the NFCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year Award for the second straight season, as well. The Bruins return outfielder Allexis Bennett and infielder Delaney Spaulding, both NFCA All-Americans. Tickets: TBA Phone: (310) UCLA–WIN Web: www.uclabruins.com

Senior outfielder Allexis Bennett

JAN. 7 / THURS / 6 P.M.

Men’s Basketball: UCLA vs. Arizona Until someone proves otherwise, Arizona remains the team to beat in the Pac-12 Conference. The Wildcats won both the regular season and the conference tournament in 2015 and are the media’s choice to repeat again this year. The Bruins are coming off a 22-14 campaign that included two wins in the NCAA tournament. In his third season on the bench in Pauley Pavilion, Head Coach Steve Alford has four of his top six scorers from 2014-15 — junior Bryce Alford (15.4 points per game), senior Tony Parker (11.5 ppg), junior Isaac Hamilton (10.6 ppg) and sophomore Thomas Welsh (3.8 ppg) back. He’ll also count on now-eligible sophomore swingman Jonah Bolden and a pair of promising freshman backcourt players, Prince Ali and Aaron Holiday, brother of former Bruin standout Jrue Holiday. Location: Pauley Pavilion, UCLA Tickets: Available only through the purchase of a ticket package. Season-ticket packages start at $249. For information: Call (310) UCLA–WIN or visit www.uclabruins.com

january 2016 ucla magazine 49


UCLA TFT Sundance Film Festival Reception

FEB. 6 / SAT / 4-7 P.M.

UCLA Spirit Squad All Access Reception The All Access Reception is a celebration and fundraising event to support the UCLA Spirit Squad. Attendees meet UCLA athletes, coaches and current squad members in a festive environment. Kids have their own VIP experience in the Kids’ Zone. The online fundraiser includes such items as signed memorabilia and exotic trips. Funds raised support the Spirit Squad’s programmatic and scholarship needs. Help support the team that supports UCLA! Bidding: Bidding takes place from Jan. 27 through Feb. 6 at biddingforgood.com and by searching “UCLA Spirit.” Location: UCLA Pauley Pavilion Club Web: www.spirit.ucla.edu

FEB. 27-28, MAR. 6 / 6 P.M.

Dinners for 12 Strangers Dinners for 12 Strangers is a 47-year UCLA tradition that has become a global phenomenon. Every year, on one of three nights, alumni, faculty and students come together to enjoy good food and conversation. In 2015, alumni hosted more than 350 dinners around the world involving more than 3,700 Bruins. Sign up today to join in on the fun — because anything can happen with 12 strangers! Register: www.alumni.ucla.edu/dinners

The UCLA Opportunity Network Experience Partnership UCLA, a program designed to engage alumni and community members in supporting the academic and professional development of students, has joined UCLA Alumni Career Programs. Executive Director Katrina Davy leads the newly combined department, which recently launched UCLA ONE (Opportunity.Network.Experience) — a new online community offering integrated ways for alumni to engage with the UCLA career community. The soft launch of the site featured coordination of the UCLA Alumni Mentor Program, through which nearly 3,000 alumni and students registered on UCLA ONE. Students were able to see the amazing things that alumni are doing professionally and could select their mentor based on discipline, degree, title, company and/or geographic location. UCLA ONE offered an improved participant experience for all involved and precipitated another enriching year for that program. UCLA ONE provides alumni the ability to post job openings exclusively for the UCLA community. The website allows UCLA alumni to promote events through which individuals can connect, both in person and virtually around the globe. This platform provides additional opportunities to unite the Bruin community all over the world. UCLA ONE also encourages alumni to provide feedback on how they would like to get involved and support the university. Alumni are offered opportunities to volunteer as guest lecturers or panelists, provide résumé reviews, perform mock interviews, and talk to others about their careers. UCLA ONE creates a robust experience for alumni, regardless of their career stage. UCLA ONE is user-friendly and connected to LinkedIn and Facebook, so most information will migrate into the system for individuals who already have an account on either of those social networks. The Alumni Affairs team is continuing to customize the website and make it the optimal platform for alumni. Partnership UCLA and Alumni Career Programs have consolidated their resources, and the team is strategically leading programming and providing resources for the entire alumni community. They are designing a number of skill-training programs such as the Bruin Development Academy, which serves students and young alumni by providing exposure and skills to pursue careers in the most competitive industries. For mid-career professionals who might be looking to make a career change, or for professionals who want to rise within their careers, Davy’s team is developing and expanding programs to help facilitate career advancement. The Alumni Career Team recently conducted a full-market research study of the UCLA alumni community and is continuing to do a thorough analysis of all the information received. The team welcomes all opinions and ideas, which can be e-mailed to careerprograms@alumni.ucla.edu. To learn more, visit www.uclaone.com.


Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), invites you to the annual Sundance Film Festival Alumni Reception. This event is made possible, in part, by Kanbar Entertainment and UCLA Alumni Affairs. All UCLA alumni are welcome to attend, but an RSVP is required due to limited space and Utaharea and film festival regulations. Location: Zoom Restaurant, 660 Main St., Park City, UT 84060 RSVP: www.tft.ucla.edu/sundancereception

HAIL to the hills

ahead of its time

Photos: courtesy oF Welton Becket and associates and archives oF Bruce d. Becket

The UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute pioneered the idea of interdisciplinary research.

Barely 50 years old, neuroscience promises to unlock the fundamental mysteries of human experience. It is a discipline with a vast span of inquiry, from the molecular biology of learning and memory to the social, cultural and historical factors that shape the experience of madness. The UCla Neuropsychiatric Institute, along with a few other such institutions, has played a critical role in creating this expansive field. Three-quarters of a century ago, a group of UC faculty, administrators from the department of Mental Hygiene, and California state legislators foresaw the need for research into the fundamental causes of mental and nervous disorders. In 1941, the California state legislature approved funding for langley Porter Clinic, a psychiatric research and clinical facility on property adjacent to the campus of UC san Francisco. acknowledging the growing importance of southern California and UCla, they also agreed to fund a similar but more interdisciplinary institution in southern California, once funds were available to build a medical school at UCla. In January 1949, the UC regents agreed that UCla would make land available on campus for an institute that would not be limited to psychiatry, but would also include neurology and neurosurgery. In 1954, the state budget called for construction of a six-story building to include both clinical and research facilities. In the proposal to establish “an Institute of Neuropsychiatry at the University of California, los angeles,” the dean of the medical school wrote that “an institute’s purpose is to develop and organize research in areas that require an interdisciplinary approach.” Prescient in regard to the direction that the neurosciences would take in the following decades, the UCla Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI) was designed to transcend the parochial politics of individual departments and lead the way toward a new, integrative science of human behavior. In 1961, the NPI opened as a research, education and treatment center. as the largest system of public mental health care in the nation, the California depart-

ment of Mental Hygiene saw fundamental research as a critical part of the department’s mission. so while the facility also included the Neuropsychiatric Hospital (NPH), the latter was subordinate to the research and educational mission of the NPI. With barely 200 beds at its peak in a California state hospital system of more than 30,000 patients, the NPH was never intended to fulfill a major clinical service need. Instead, it served as a training ground for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and nurses and, just as importantly, as a source of inspiration for basic and clinical science. a five-story addition to the NPI funded by the federal government provided space for the Mental retardation research Center, which opened in 1970. later that decade, the state transferred to UCla the resources for the operation of the NPI, including teaching support for the NPH. In 2004, the institute’s name was changed to the Jane and Terry semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, in honor of the couple whose philanthropy helps support the institute’s operation (along with state and federal funds). at the same time, NPH was renamed the stewart and lynda resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital in tribute to the resnicks, whose donation helped support the construction of a new facility on the fourth floor of the ronald reagan UCla Medical Center. Today, U.S. News & World Report ranks UCla’s program at the resnick hospital seventh in the nation. The semel Institute is one of the largest state-supported interdisciplinary institutes devoted to the understanding of basic and clinical neuroscience.

(Above) The NPI building in its early days. (Below) The institute’s auditorium when it was new.

january 2016 ucla magazine 51

Big breakthroughs often start small. That’s literally true in the lab of acclaimed neuroscientist Jeff Bronstein M.D. ’88, Ph.D. ’88, director of the Movement Disorders Program at UCLA. Bronstein and his team use zebrafish, only 1 to 2 inches long, to research new therapies for Parkinson’s disease and other maladies. In this shot, Bronstein is checking his tiny models in their equally tiny tanks.

52    2016



Small Fish, Big Science

Get closer to the cause.

Go deeper into the world’s largest effort to treat depression — the cause of nearly one million suicides a year.

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