N UNL Research Report 2012-2013
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Unraveling Secrets of

Brain, Biology and Behavior


From studying the neurological basis of decision-making to understanding how
the brain behaves after injury, UNL’s new Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior
is positioned to become an international leader in understanding how brain
functioning affects human behavior.

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Established in 2013, the center’s multi-disciplinary focus, state-of-the-art equipment and a unique partnership between UNL research and athletics deepen the university’s research capacity, including its growing expertise in concussion research. Research ranges from uncovering the biological underpinnings of political leanings and the nature of addiction to exploring the heritability of social attitudes and language development.

“I believe we can revolutionize brain research and bring it into the everyday,” said center director Dennis Molfese, Mildred Francis Thompson Professor of Psychology.

The center also is the world’s only lab to simultaneously capture functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), record brain electrical activity and track eye movement, Molfese said. The goal is to get a complete picture of the brain’s structure, how different brain areas interact with each other and how it carries out thoughts and responds to stimuli.

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“I believe we can revolutionize brain research
and bring it into the everyday.”
– Dennis Molfese

 

This technology enhances concussion research, a cornerstone of the center’s work. Molfese and colleagues study how the brain processes information before and after a concussion. Molfese hopes their findings lead to better tools for assessing injury. This research could improve treatment for other head injuries, as well as concussions. Annually, 10.1 million Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries.

The center, which occupies just over half of a more than 50,000-square-foot addition to East Stadium, features shared research areas that encourage faculty collaboration. It’s adjacent to the Nebraska Athletics Performance Lab, a collaborator on health and performance initiatives.

The athletics-research partnership aids Molfese’s leadership in a Big Ten Conference/Ivy League effort, in conjunction with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, to study sports-related head injuries. These findings could reshape collegiate athletics worldwide.

He’s also a member of a National Academy of Sciences committee on sports-related concussions in youth. The committee’s findings, to be released in late 2013, are expected to influence safety recommendations for high-impact sports, including football.

“We need serious interventions that are science guided,” Molfese said.