New £5million Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience launched
World-class neuroscience research in Wales has been given a boost with the launch of the new multi-centre Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (WICN).
Building on existing Psychology expertise in Swansea, Bangor, and Cardiff Universities, the Welsh Assembly Government has invested £5.17million in the Institute, through HEFCW's Reconfiguration and Collaboration Fund.
The Institute, which was launched today (November 28) during a ceremony held in the National Assembly of Wales' Senedd Building in Cardiff Bay, draws together more than 250 research academics from the three partner institutions.
Cognitive neuroscience has emerged in the past decade as one of the most significant areas of contemporary science, and it has been described by some researchers as science's "final frontier".
This fast moving scientific discipline is beginning to transform the understanding of normal and damaged brain function, as well as to inform the treatment of brain impairments such as head injury, stroke, dementia, and schizophrenia.
It is anticipated that investment in this major new research institute will strengthen Wales' position internationally in the study and application of cognitive and clinical neuroscience.
By combining resources and expertise, and sharing the costs of expensive technology, WICN enables Welsh cognitive neuroscience research to compete with the best institutions in the world for research funding.
It will also offer potential opportunities to take economic and commercial advantage of emerging developments in this field, and it will work actively with industry and the healthcare sector to this end.
In the first year alone, more than a dozen world-class researchers have been appointed to Swansea, Bangor, and Cardiff Universities. Meanwhile, academics and researchers at the three Centres have begun to collaborate on numerous research projects.
Jane Hutt, Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: "I am delighted that we are supporting this excellent research collaboration. The Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience will place Wales at the heart of the research community in this very significant area of work.
"The Institute will achieve world-class research collaboratively, in line with the approach which we have encouraged in our Reaching Higher strategy."
Professor Adrian Burgess, Head of Psychology at Swansea University, said: "The new Institute provides a framework in which to ensure sustainable neuroscience research collaboration within Wales and develop a cross-university graduate school to give future students the best of what is available in internationally – in Wales."
Professor Merfyn Jones, Vice-Chancellor of Bangor University, said: "WICN is an organisation of which Wales can be truly proud. The Institute boasts some of the foremost researchers in neuroscience in the world. The results of neuroscience research will feed into health services in Wales, will be shared internationally, and can bring economic and employment benefits."
Professor Dylan Jones, Head of Psychology at Cardiff University, said: "It has been gratifying to see the willingness of the Welsh Assembly Government to support – through the WICN collaborative venture – already strong departments in order that they can compete effectively in their research with the very best in the world.
"At the same time, the work of WICN will be projected onto the local scene, providing opportunities for the public to learn about key advances in our understanding of the brain."
Some of the collaborative research projects already underway are in the topical areas of substance abuse and overeating.
Miles Cox and Steve Hosier of Bangor University, and Emmanuel Pothos of Swansea University measured excessive drinkers' distraction by alcohol stimuli. They found that the more drinkers were distracted by alcohol, the less able they were to reduce their drinking during the next six months.
Katy Tapper and Emmanuel Pothos of Swansea University, and Andrew Lawrence of Cardiff University are examining a similar effect in the case of overeating.
Such research will should lead to retraining programmes based on new psychological approaches, which are proved to be effective, which could augment more traditional, clinically-oriented programmes.