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€15m to understand how the brain develops

Posted on 29/01/2013

King’s College London has been awarded a six year €15m ‘Synergy grant’ by the European Research Council (ERC) to map the development of nerve connections in the brain before and just after birth.

The Developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP) will use world-leading MR imaging facilities in the Evelina Children’s Hospital Neonatal Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital to help understand how the brain develops, and to see how it is affected by genetic variation or problems like preterm birth.

This will provide insights into conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Professor David Edwards, Director of the Centre for the Developing Brain, who is leading the collaboration, said: ‘This is about understanding how the human brain assembles itself. By the time a baby is born, the brain is well developed and key connections between nerves have already been made, so we are looking at babies in the womb. We want to map the nerve connections that form as the brain grows and develops.”

The resulting map will be made freely available to the research community to help improve understand and develop treatments for neurological disorders. The ground-breaking collaboration brings together world-leaders in medicine, engineering, computer science, and physics from King’s College London, Imperial College London, and the University of Oxford.

About the ERC Synergy grants
The Synergy grants, piloted this year, aim to promote partnerships in academic research. The scheme allocates up to €15m over six years for projects aimed at enhancing collaborations between lead researchers whose complementary skills, knowledge and resources can realise results that would not be possible if they were working alone. Of the 710 Synergy applications the ERC received only 11 were successful.

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