BrainHealth Supporters Raise More Than $1 Million for Research

Friends of Center for BrainHealth

Friends of BrainHealth 2012-13 co-chairs Ross and Anne Helbing (left) and Caroline Gehan (right) meet with the Friends of BrainHealth Distinguished New Scientist Award winners and finalists.

The Friends of BrainHealth, a circle of donors whose financial contributions directly support scientific study at the Center for BrainHealth, has raised $1.1 million to advance brain research since the program began four years ago.

“The Friends of BrainHealth was established to empower members of the community to participate, stay up to date and significantly shape the scientific study happening at the Center for BrainHealth,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, the center’s founder and chief director and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair.

“With the funds raised through the program, we are able to give young scientists an invaluable opportunity to design and lead their own research studies under the tutelage of UT Dallas faculty,” Chapman said.

Graduate students, doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows at the center compete for $25,000 research grants that are awarded at the annual Friends of BrainHealth Toni Brinker Scientist Selection Luncheon.

Toni Brinker and Dr. Sandi Chapman

Luncheon sponsor Toni Brinker (left) posed with Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth.

The 2012-13 Friends of BrainHealth co-chairs, Caroline Gehan and Ross and Anne Helbing, doubled the group’s membership during their tenure and raised more than $360,000. The fundraising record has supported four awards to neuroscientists at early points in their careers and helped advance the Center for BrainHealth’s mission to understand, protect and heal the brain.

Linda and Joel Robuck, who joined Friends of BrainHealth at the Visionary Friend Level for the second straight year, chose to further a study by doctoral candidate Nick Hubbard that is investigating the neural mechanisms of depression.

“Joel and I see the firm commitment of the Center for BrainHealth’s young scientists to achieve research results,” said Linda Robuck. “We are inspired by the potential to solve real-world brain health problems and enhance brain performance.”

Under the guidance of faculty member Dr. Bart Rypma, Hubbard will use brain imaging to document and understand changes that occur as an individual recovers from depression. The findings are expected to inform new treatments aimed at improving the quality of life for millions of depression sufferers.

Friends of BrainHealth

The 2013 luncheon was co-chaired by Brian and Betty Schultz. Distinguished Friends for 2013 are: Chuck and Ann Eisemann; Ralph and Susan Hawkins; Lyda Hill; Al Hill Jr.; and Kenny and Lisa Troutt. Former honorary chairs include Toni and Norm Brinker, Sue Justice, Sammye Myers and Dee Wyly. Former chairs include Kimber Hartmann, Angie Kadesky and Daffan Nettle.

The Friends of BrainHealth kicked off its 2013-14 campaign on Nov. 1 with co-chairs Ballard and Tracy Castleman. The group offers six membership levels: Companion ($500), Friend ($1,000), Special Friend ($2,500), Esteemed Friend ($5,000), Distinguished Friend ($10,000), and Visionary Friend ($25,000). To join, visit

The Sapphire Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to Dr. Nyaz Didehbani, whose research will focus on developing brain biomarkers to improve concussion assessment accuracy. Her work is under the direction of the center’s medical science director, Dr. John Hart Jr., who holds the Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience and the Jane and the Bud Smith Distinguished Chair. Didehbani's research seeks to expand the understanding of concussion recovery and help optimize treatment regimens to ensure safe return to play for athletes.

“Sapphire is honored to be able to support such an expert team in a study of great significance,” said Kate Juett, the foundation's founder; and Dana Juett, the CEO and president. “Understanding of sports-related concussions and their short- and long-term effects is not only topical, but of vital importance.”

Friends of BrainHealth members listened to research proposal presentations from four finalists at the annual luncheon and voted to award the final two grants.

Alison Perez

Alison Perez

Alison Perez, a doctoral candidate working under Chapman, was awarded the Friends of BrainHealth Distinguished New Scientist Award to examine decision-making abilities in adults at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment, often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Her research seeks to identify harmful decision-making behavior through cognitive testing and brain imaging to develop interventions that extend healthy decision-making ability and autonomy in older adults.

Dr. Asha Vas

Dr. Asha Vas

Dr. Asha Vas, a postdoctoral fellow in Chapman’s lab, was awarded $25,000 to test the efficacy of an online brain training program developed by center researchers to improve higher-level thinking skills in military veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.

Her research will adapt the existing training that is currently conducted in person into a real-time online delivery method that allows veterans across the country access to the program.

“Dr. Chapman's incredible leadership at the Center for BrainHealth creates an environment where brilliant minds can explore the complexities of the brain,” said Toni Brinker, who has sponsored the luncheon for the past two years. “Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of BrainHealth, young neuroscientists change lives through innovative scientific study.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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