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World-leading brain research

28 Tachwedd 2007

The new multi-centre Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience is to strengthen the nation’s international reputation in one of the most significant areas of contemporary science.

Described by some researchers as science’s "final frontier", cognitive neuroscience is a fast-moving scientific discipline which is beginning to transform the understanding of normal and damaged brain function. Such research can inform the treatment of brain impairments such as head injury, stroke, dementia and schizophrenia.

Building on existing world-leading research, including the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, the Welsh Assembly Government has now invested more than £5 million to establish the Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (WICN) in partnership with Cardiff, Bangor and Swansea Universities.

Launched at the Senedd Building, National Assembly of Wales (28 November), the Institute draws together psychologists from three of the top psychology departments in Europe. The three faculties, including Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, are staffed by more than 250 academics who have secured in the region of £11 million in grants in just the last three years.

Cardiff School of Psychology was instrumental in formulating this successful bid, drawing together existing cognitive neuroscience research excellence in Wales. Head of School Professor Dylan Jones 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 the Institute will be projected onto the local scene, providing opportunities for the public to learn about key advances in our understanding of the brain."

An example of this collaborative research includes work by Professor Andrew Lawrence (Cardiff), Dr Katy Tapper (Swansea) and Dr Emmanuel Pothos (Swansea) to tackle the psychological processes which lead to overeating. Such research should lead to retraining programmes based on new psychological approaches supporting more traditional, clinically oriented programmes.

Combining resources and expertise, and sharing the costs of expensive technology, the new Institute will enable Welsh cognitive neuroscience research to compete with the best institutions in the world. The Institute also aims to benefit the people of Wales, whether directly by making neuroscience accessible through public lectures and visits to schools or indirectly through partnerships with businesses.

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."