Virtual conference pursues ‘moonshots’ in translational neuroscience


Nonhuman primates are the closest genetic relatives of humans, possessing striking similarities in behavior, cognition, physiology and development. It is no surprise that researchers are relying on nonhuman primate models to answer questions that cannot studied in humans, and to unravel the complexities of the brain for the purposes of advancing mental health research.

Until recently, there has been little global collaboration focused on nonhuman primate brain imaging. However, in 2017, the PRIMatE Data Exchange (PRIME-DE) brought to nonhuman brain imaging the open data sharing model established by the Child Mind Institute-led International Neuroimaging Data-sharing Initiative (INDI), which has transformed the pace and scale of human brain imaging research over the past decade.

This week, more than 200 researchers from around the world are coming together virtually to identify critical needs for the field and brainstorm collaborative solutions in the next evolution of this project, the PRIMatE Data and Resource Exchange (PRIME-DRE) Global Collaboration Workshop. The meeting builds on the community established at the first Global Collaboration Workshop, hosted at the Wellcome Trust in London in September 2019, with additional support from the Child Mind Institute, Kavli Foundation, NIH BRAIN Initiative, and the National Institute of Mental Health. At that first workshop, researchers discussed the vision and goals necessary to improve scientific understanding of the function and evolution of the brain. That dialogue resulted in a critical evaluation in Neuron and dozens of publications in a special issue of Neuroimage.

Now, facing the barriers of the pandemic, researchers from around the world are coming together again virtually to accelerate progress and develop a series of collaborative projects in four major topic areas:

1. Multiscale, Multimodal Brain Atlas Generation

2. Circuit-Level Perturbations: Methods and Applications

3. Generation of Community-level Data Resources

4. Analysis, Modeling and Informatics: Integrating, Optimizing, and Scaling

Importantly, this work is not starting at the workshop. It began at quarterly calls over the past year, during which a vision for the event was established. Then, in a series of eight calls over the past month, needs assessments were conducted in each of the four topic areas to ensure researchers come prepared to brainstorm solutions in human brain imaging.

“The dedication of nonhuman primate imaging researchers to breaking down silos and transforming insights and innovations into solutions has been inspiring,” said Michael Milham, MD, PhD, lead organizer of PRIME-DRE, vice president of research at the Child Mind Institute and director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging and Neuromodulation at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. “Such collaboration will be necessary to achieve breakthroughs in delivering the next generation of therapeutics for mental health and learning disorders.”


Following the Global Collaboration Workshop, researchers will spend two days in a virtual ‘Brainhack’ setting, where they will advance ideas in a format that combines elements of hackathons and unconference settings. This is part of a larger tradition of Brainhack events that have emerged throughout the world over the past decade, and that was started in part by Child Mind Institute researchers.

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