UTD Center Receives Three Grants for
Brain Research Totaling More Than $500K

RICHARDSON, Texas (Feb. 7, 2006) — The Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has received three separate grants totaling more than $500,000 for brain health research initiatives ranging from improving decision–making skills and functioning to how kidney disease affects the brain to helping children achieve academic and social success following a brain injury.

The first gift, a $400,000 commitment from Dallas philanthropists John and Lee Wacker, will help launch the “Healthy Brain Initiative for Young Adults.”  The program will focus on research and intervention for impaired social cognition, which affects the ability to make decisions, assume responsibility and get along with others.  Impaired social cognition has been linked to dysfunction of the frontal and temporal brain regions.  By intervening with young adults, the center hopes to reach them during a critical stage in their social development.  

The new initiative meshes with the Wackers’ interests — the couple has long been fascinated by neurological explanations for behavioral problems that historically were attributed to psychological dysfunction.

“We hope to find out what is not functioning right in the brain that causes inappropriate behavior and, hopefully, what to do about it,” said Lee Wacker.  “For so long, the world seems to have given up on fixing the brain, and we think it can be repaired,” added John Wacker.

The second award, a $60,000 grant from Kidney Texas, Inc., will allow researchers at the center to further examine the effects of kidney disease on brain function in children. 

Previous studies have found that renal failure has a detrimental impact on youths’ cognitive development.  With the grant, UTD researchers plan to develop a clinical and research program called “Kidney–Brain Connection,” which is specifically designed to study the long–term effect of speech/language and cognitive treatment services for children.  The scientists hope to develop a format for following and maximizing the potential of children who suffer from the disease and make rehabilitation services available to help them succeed in home, school and community environments.

The third gift, a $60,000 award from an anonymous donor, will allow researchers at the center to create a national program to define pediatric care in the presence of brain disease or injury.  Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of acquired disability in children, but there currently are no research–based therapeutic models for helping children develop skills for academic and social success post–injury.

The gift will allow for a controlled, randomized study that will compare current standards of care to the center’s program of targeted intervention to develop strategic learning skills.  Researchers hope that, if successful, the center’s model program could be replicated across the country, eventually creating a permanent change in the lives of children living with brain injuries.

The center’s director, Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, who also holds the Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair for Brain Health, said she hopes the gifts and grant will help to dramatically and positively change the lives of adults and children touched by brain injury or disease.

“These generous awards will enable UTD BrainHealth scientists to find solutions and treat children who suffer difficulties with life skills and poor decision-making despite normal intellectual function, research the effects of kidney disease on the brain, and help children achieve academic and social success after suffering from a brain injury,” said Chapman.  “We are excited about the discoveries we hope to make in exploring these new frontiers, but especially about the potential to better the lives of children.”

About the Center for BrainHealth

The Center for BrainHealth has a unique mission:  to unite brain research and brain therapies in an active partnership to build healthy minds and restore health to injured and diseased minds.  No other institution in America has undertaken this dual mission.  The center, a scientific institute of The University of Texas at Dallas, is dedicated to understanding the brain’s ability to restore or protect healthy function, protect the brain through preventive measures for people of all ages, and healing the brain through treatments that regenerate brain function.  Brain disease or trauma can strike anyone at any age, but exciting scientific discoveries are changing the past belief that the brain cannot be healed.  For more information about the Center for BrainHealth and its work, please visit the organization’s Web site www.centerforbrainhealth.org.  

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls nearly 14,500 students.  The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores.  The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.  For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s web site at www.utdallas.edu.