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North Texas researchers want to delve deeply into the intricacies of the human brain.
And to do it, they’re shoring up research programs, adding space exclusively for neurologists and creating consumer-facing centers that provide, among other things, brain check-up exams.
The efforts are being fueled by a growing national demand for neurological science, as well as the prevalence of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, autism and traumatic brain injuries.
“The reason you’re seeing more about the brain right now is that it’s time,” said Leanne Young, who heads the University of Texas at Dallas’ new Brain Performance Institute.
On Thursday, UTD’ Center for BrainHealth will officially open a 62,000-square-foot Brain Performance Institute on Mockingbird Lane. It will use virtual simulation technology to provide cognitive training for people with and without brain conditions.
For example, one of the uses is to help people with autism and other social cognition challenges to recognize emotions and facial expressions, and to view in real-time how their own expressions can affect other people.
“From a scientific point of view, there’s a huge amount of excitement” in the brain research world, said Dr. David Owens, acting deputy director of extramural research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Glass artist David Gappa created this glass neuron installation titled “Introspection” to mimic the mind for the Brain Performance Institute at the Center for BrainHealth in Dallas.
(Ben Torres/Special Contributor)
The need to penetrate the mystery of the brain is urgent, as “this is one of the fundamental questions still to crack,” he said. When it comes to the research being done to move things forward, “Texas is well represented,” Owens added. Brain disorders and diseases cost the U.S. economy an estimated $1.5 trillion a year, or about 8.8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to a 2016 report from the Washington, D.C.-based tech policy group, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health launched The Brain Initiative, a $4.5 billion multiyear, multi-agency project to revolutionize scientific knowledge of the billions of neurons and cells that make up our noggins.
The initiative launched with partners from research foundations and institutes, drug and device makers and universities. The University of Texas System aligned more than $20 million in equipment, faculty and other resources to support the project. Texas organizations had already been paving a way for brain research across the state. And projects are expanding to address unmet needs and move research to new levels.
Both UTD and UT Southwestern announced new efforts in recent weeks. They are part of a systemwide priority to “move the needle” on brain research, as system chancellor William McRaven described during a visit to North Texas earlier this year. The projects are funded by federal and state monies, philanthropists and bonds.
UTD’ $82 million Brain Performance Institute was created predominantly with donations from philanthropists, whose contributions were matched by state funding. They raised over $19 million in private money for construction and received $15 million in matching funds from the state and university. The rest was used to cover programming, such as cognitive training for military veterans and law enforcement and reasoning programs for middle-school students. It’s a unique model that uses the latest science to focus on prevention, Young said. “Most of the time, people don’t think about their brain until something goes wrong,” she explained. “We’re looking at how can we prevent somebody from ever having to worry.” Services provided at the Brain Performance Institute, including post-acute care for people diagnosed with brain conditions, will not be covered by health insurance. Consumers would pay directly. The institute will also profit from helping companies design and develop brain healthy workplaces that enhance employee performance. Still, others remain focused on clinical research and treatments. “And there is always a need for more,” said William Dane, a spokesman for the Brain Injury Association of America. “More research, more beds and more clinicians,” he said.
Texas groups are stepping it up. Earlier this month, for example, UT Southwestern announced plans for a $480 million expansion of its William P. Clements Hospital. A $36 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation helped to jump start the effort. It will include construction of a third tower, in which seven of the 10 floors will be home to the O’Donnell Brain Institute, where basic science, clinical trials and other research will be conducted. “The goal is to provide the very best and most comprehensive care to those in need today,” said Dr. Daniel Podolsky president of the UT Southwestern Medical Center. A rendering of the $480 million expansion of UT Southwestern’s flagship William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital.
While philanthropic funding helped launch the newest efforts at the two UT System facilities, brain researchers across the state have also taken advantage of NIH funding. So far in 2017, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has issued 221 awards totaling $83.1 million to Texas researchers, and the National Institute of Mental Health has issued 92 awards totaling $35.7 million to local organizations, both in and out of the UT System. They include the Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, Austin-based molecular diagnostic company Asuragen and Southern Methodist University. UT Southwestern has been awarded just over $19 million and UTD $2.7 million for brain, stroke and mental health research this year. There’s a downstream positive benefit to Texas’ “confluence of brain activity,” said Owens of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “They build centers, bring people in. They recruit and then they develop new programs,” he said. And that could position Texas to be a hub of brain research breakthroughs in the future.
Crest Cadillac and CBS Chanel 11 news segment, Eat.See.Play., highlights unique places in DFW; featuring the best things to experience in the Metroplex! Taryn Jones the host is featuring Vetro Glassblowing Studio partnership with Crest Cadillac and CBS Chanel 11 to show our viewers the best Dallas-Ft Worth has to offer!
The magic and beauty of biology have inspired artists for centuries. David Gappa’s newest installation titled “Introspection” is a visible interpretation of an often hidden process in our bodies: the communication of nerves. Designed to capture the essence of thought as it pulsates through a field of synapses, Gappa’s piece artistically translates the catalytic movement of energy as it transfers through our creative minds.
Designed for the Center for BrainHealth, a part of The University of Texas at Dallas, “Introspection” is scheduled to be installed in April 2017. Fifty-feet wide by forty-feet long, and weighing an impressive 5,300 pounds, the intricate installation of glass and steel consists of 175 LED-illuminated glass spires and 1,050 hand-blown glass spheres. Each five-and-a-half-foot spire is individually illuminated, and when programmed, slowly pulsates an array of colors across the entire piece, similar to the electric impulses passed from one nerve cell to another. As the focal point of the research institute’s multi-purpose room, “Introspection” will serve as a visual reminder of the institution’s commitment to enhancing, protecting and restoring brain health across the lifespan.
Molten artwork sparks creativity
for groups in Grapevine
Vivid, fascinating fine art glass creations line the walls of Vetro Glass-blowing Studio & Gallery in Grapevine. Vetro artists not only create these masterpieces, they also enjoy educating the public about the ancient art form of glassblowing through live demon-strations. “When a group visits Vetro, I think they enjoy the fun and unique atmosphere of the gallery and the many styles of art glass we have to see,” said Shannon Shumate-Trolinder, gallery manager of Vetro. “Then, they are invited into the artist’s studio where they can enjoy watching the art of glassblowing and ask questions to the glassblowers at the end of their creations. ”The glassblowing team has 32 years of experience behind them and three glassblowing artists, including owner David Gappa, Shumate-Trolinder said. Scheduled glassblowing demonstrations are usually 30 minutes long, and they also include a Q&A at the end. A variety of demonstrations and customized events are offered to give groups a memorable experience as well. A team-building event is one of the options for groups, and it includes challenging opportunities that team members in a variety of companies may face, Shumate-Trolinder said. Guests also can help create their own artwork with molten glass in Vetro’s Help-Create experience.
Each attendee can choose two to three colors from a selection for their artwork. During the changing seasons throughout the year, groups can create different types of artwork. In September, guests can create pumpkins, ornaments in November and December, hearts and flowers in February and beer glasses in March in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day. “Groups will have an unforgettable experience,” Shumate-Trolinder said. “You will take away the beauty of the art of glassblowing, knowledge of how you can create with molten glass and just a fun experience of visiting a working studio and a fine art glass gallery.”
Motorcoach parking is available on Hudgins Street, which is located directly behind Vetro, or in the front parking lot area as well. Group rates are available. Scheduling a visit in advance is preferred.
Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery
Let the Arts Fill your Heart in Grapevine Texas with Travel Media Showcase 2016
During Travel Media Showcase, we were able to choose a local FAM (familiarization) Trip. I went on “Let the Arts Fill Your Heart!” which began at the Great American West Gallery where we had lunch catered by Main Street Bakery. I was able to interview Sonya Terpening who told me she is a storyteller who uses paints instead of words. I loved hearing about her recent trip to Glacier National Park with thirty women artists to re-create a trip of women artists in the 1930s for the 100th birthday of the National Parks!
While on tour at Vetro Glassblowing Studio, I bought earrings. We also toured the Holder Dane Gallery next door and I was able to interview Linda Lewis-Roark, owner of Grapevine Foundry and Fine Arts Program. Her bronze sculptures are sought after and her 800-pound winged unicorn is on top of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau’s north tower. Her pegasus is 9 feet from wingtip to wingtip and was placed in December 2015. Lewis-Roark is possibly the only woman sculpture who also runs her own foundry.