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Swartz Foundation establishes computational neuroscience center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — For decades, comparisons have been drawn between the human brain and computer processing. From complex mathematical problems to evolution-based analysis of behavior and emotion, both have been compared as parallel systems. Yet, the larger challenge is to understand the functioning of the three-pound collection of neurons and synapses that form the human brain.

In a landmark move to expand the understanding of the brain, the Swartz Foundation is establishing a research initiative at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, creating a Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience (SCCN) at the Long Island-based facility. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), one of the leading neuroscience research facilities worldwide, has pursued sophisticated neuroscience since the late 1980s, making significant discoveries in the understanding of the fundamental processes that govern learning and memory.

A decade ago, Jerome Swartz formed a foundation dedicated to understanding the brain/mind connection through the integrated application of principles and methods from physics, mathematics and computer engineering. A network of coast-to-coast Sloan-Swartz Centers for Theoretical Neurobiology, founded by the Sloan Foundation and today directed and supported by the Swartz Foundation, have probed great advances in computational neuroscience. The establishment of the SCCN at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory adds a significant research collaborator to the six other state-of-the-art research centers operating under Swartz Foundation support. These centers, located at University of California at San Diego, the Salk Institute, California Institute of Technology, New York University/Courant, University of California at San Francisco and Brandeis, will join with CSHL to create a unique, unparalleled coast-to-coast “virtual institute” for neuroscience research.

The new Center at CSHL will also bring together senior neuroscience faculty—many, leaders in that field—to direct research in system neurobiology and computational neuroscience. Using the multi-year, multi-million dollar research support provided by the Swartz Foundation, scientists at the 114-year-old site will be able to address how the brain computes complex problems, continuing groundbreaking research already underway for nearly two decades.

“With the support of the Swartz Foundation, we have made a major commitment to the basic understanding of the human brain through this computational neuroscience initiative,” said Bruce Stillman, President and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “In collaboration with other centers in the Swartz program, we hope to finally conquer the last frontier in biological science, the human brain, and make meaningful strides against diseases that affect human behavior.”

Dr. Swartz, founder of the Swartz Foundation, echoed Dr. Stillman’s sentiments. “We believe that theoretical and experimental collaboration is a powerful tool to help comprehend the mysteries of the brain. Through a “virtual neuroscience centers” approach, we are creating a sophisticated interdisciplinary strategy to resolve issues of integrated brain functioning. We are delighted to add CSHL to this collaboration, which will strengthen and expedite computational neuroscience research.”

Swartz is the co-founder and now chief scientist emeritus of Symbol Technologies, the Holtsville, New York-based global leader in barcode-based mobile and wireless data transaction systems. Under his leadership as Chairman and CEO, Symbol was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1999. Swartz is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an IEEE Fellow, and holds more than 175 U.S. Patents. Intrigued by the brain/mind relationship, he established the Swartz Foundation in 1994.

Written by: Public Affairs | | 516-367-8455

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About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit