Brain research has advanced tremendously in recent years, but deciphering the complex relationship between brain activity and human behavior remains a compelling scientific challenge. Penn, with its history of excellence in cognitive science and neuroscience, is taking on that challenge with MindCORE.
This new research center is the University’s hub dedicated to the integrative study of the mind, focusing on the manifestation of the brain’s functions: our thoughts, emotions, memories, and imagination. Its work has broad societal impact, from uncovering better methods of learning and teaching, to influencing public policy and helping people make healthier choices.
“A better understanding of how we make decisions can help us improve and even save lives,” says Sharon Thompson-Schill, founding director of the Center and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology. “For example, knowing that an ‘opt-in’ default option has a powerful influence on the number of people who choose to be organ donors can help increase the odds for the more than 120,000 Americans currently waiting for a donated organ.”
At a time when the demand for experts in human intelligence and behavior is growing across industries, and technology is advancing research at lightning speed, MindCORE is galvanizing Penn’s resources—providing shared facilities and equipment, and drawing on the work of scholars across campus. Nearly 100 faculty members from more than 20 academic disciplines are affiliated with the Center, with areas of expertise ranging from marketing and psychology to bioengineering, philosophy, linguistics, criminology, and more.
Research centers like MindCORE are crucial for addressing complex topics that require expertise across disciplines. Facilitating collaboration and scholarly exchange across the University is one of Penn’s distinguishing strengths, and our close proximity allows us to do it in a way that’s truly peerless.”Steven J. Fluharty, Dean, Penn Arts & Sciences
The CORE in MindCORE stands for Center for Outreach, Research, and Education. Among its many activities, the Center awards seed funding to faculty who are working to address important problems, filling the grant gap for non-medical research into the study of the brain. So far, grants have been used to support researchers who study everything from decision-making in hunter-gatherer societies to the use of technology in language science and cultural evolution. Researchers can also use the funds to hire postdoctoral fellows.
Central to the mission of MindCORE is training the next generation of scholars and scientists, particularly those who work at the intersection of traditional disciplines. The Center is home to the undergraduate major in cognitive science and supports other majors and graduate programs related to brains and behavior. Other educational efforts include hosting public lectures, and boot camps designed to build computational and laboratory skills.
Outreach is key to bringing the Center’s work into the community and diversifying the pipeline of people interested in conducting and participating in research. MindCORE’s “pop-up laboratory” is already underway in museums and other public spaces around Philadelphia, helping researchers find study participants from different backgrounds and generations while giving bystanders a glimpse into the scientific method.
In the future, the University hopes to build a dedicated brain imaging center that will give researchers easier access to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the space they need to pursue interdisciplinary research.
“A brain imaging center is going to give us tremendous flexibility to study topics that aren’t funded through traditional means, like decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity,” says Joe Kable, Baird Term Professor of Psychology and Director of MindCORE.
Through The Power of Penn Campaign, the University hopes to establish an endowment for MindCORE, faculty and fellowship support, and funding for even more innovative projects and initiatives.
For more information about MindCORE, please contact Laura Weber.