State of Georgia receives $ 5 million grant to establish center of excellence in science and technology research


ATLANTA — A team of Georgia State University researchers have received a prestigious five-year, $ 5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Centers of Excellence in Research in Science and Technology (CREST) ​​program, which supports research capacities of institutions serving minorities through the creation of centers that effectively integrate teaching and research.

With the grant, the State of Georgia will establish the Center for Dynamic Multiscale and Multimodal Brain Mapping Over the Lifespan (D-MAP), which will focus on the development, structure and connectivity of the brain from childhood. Nationally, D-MAP is one of five new CREST centers funded in 2021.

“This significant investment by the National Science Foundation is a recognition of our strength in brain research as well as our ability to train a new and diverse generation of scientists,” said Vince Calhoun, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at the eminent researcher of the Georgia Research Alliance. and the principal investigator of the project.

The multidisciplinary center will undertake three research projects to study the links between brain development at different stages of life.

In the first project, researchers will develop new methods to improve understanding of brain structure and functional connectivity patterns and how they change over time during learning and throughout life. The researchers then plan to apply these methods to study how the brain changes and which areas of the brain are critically involved in reading. They will also study how transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate the brain – can modulate the brain’s reading network.

“We are very interested in using this kind of knowledge to one day help people, especially those with learning disabilities, learn to read better,” said Robin Morris, professor of psychology at Regents and co-principal investigator. of the grant. “TMS has been used to successfully treat severe depression, but we are investigating whether it may also be effective in improving learning outcomes.”

The second project focuses on the development of new techniques to merge different types of imaging data, such as information about the structure of the brain and its connectivity, and how various measurements change over the course of life. Researchers will use deep learning to analyze this data and identify brain patterns related to cognition and mood.

In the third project, the team will analyze large existing neuroimaging datasets – which include participants ranging from kindergarten to people in the 80s – to develop “predictive fingerprints” of the developing and aging brain. They will then use their findings to predict aspects of language processing, such as working memory or processing speed, using imaging data.

The center will also provide hands-on research experiences for students, especially those who are historically under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

“Welcoming groups historically under-represented in the research effort is part of CREST’s mission, and it also aligns with the university’s goal of providing high-quality education to people from all walks of life and from all walks of life. promote their progression to graduate degrees and careers, ”said Kyle Frantz. , professor of neuroscience and director of the Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni, which will lead the educational initiatives of the center.

The center will engage K-12 students through short courses and research internships and provide meaningful research opportunities for Georgia State undergraduates as well as Morehouse College and Spelman College. . In order to encourage the participation of students from all walks of life, the university plans to integrate the research into credit courses that count towards their degrees. The grant will also fund 12 graduate research assistant positions.

“CREST will expand our ability to recruit and train undergraduates as full members of research teams,” said Calhoun, who also heads the Center for Translational Research in Neuroimaging and Data Science, which is supported by Georgia State, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. “They will gain the skills they need to join the STEM workforce and help generate new knowledge and discovery.

D-MAP includes faculty spanning 10 departments and four Georgia state schools and colleges. The leadership team also includes Sergey Plis, associate professor of computer science, Jessica Turner, professor of neurosciences and psychology, and Vonetta Dotson, associate professor of gerontology and psychology.

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