Date:  Nov. 19, 2012




Interdisciplinary Researchers Explore the Brain in a Digital World;

$1 Million in Research Grants to Be Awarded


WASHINGTON — The world is becoming increasingly linked through social networking sites and Internet games, especially for the generation of "digital natives" who have grown up surrounded by the Internet and online media.  The many challenges and opportunities presented by this connected world were explored by more than 170 participants who gathered last week in Irvine, Calif., for the 10th annual National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) conference.  Top researchers in neuroscience and social and behavioral sciences, engineers, and modelers discussed information processing, neural plasticity, the impact of technology on society, and the design and testing of tools and applications used for connecting people to the Internet and to each other.


"Fourteen groups explored seven unique challenges selected to spur discussion and progress on urgent problems that involve basic science, engineering, and medicine, and which have far-reaching considerations for our connected world," said Michael S. Gazzaniga, director, Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara, and chair of the NAKFI Steering Committee on the Informed Brain in a Digital World.  "Once again, the value of interdisciplinary teams working together to address problems of common interest was apparent.  Putting experts from hugely diverse fields and from across the country into one room creates perspectives and solutions that are both invigorating and creative."


The research challenges on which the teams worked included developing methods to efficiently design and measure the efficacy of Internet teaching technologies (identifying ways which the Internet positively and negatively impacts social behavior; and determining how the effects of the digital age will improve health and wellness.) Representatives from public and private funding organizations, government, industry, and the media also participated.


To encourage further interdisciplinary work, the Futures Initiative announced the availability of $1 million in seed grants -- up to $100,000 for each award -- for new lines of research identified at the conference.  Recipients of the competitive grants will be named in the spring.


Launched in 2003 by the National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to stimulate interdisciplinary inquiry and to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public.  The initiative builds on three pillars of vital and sustained research: interdisciplinary encounters that counterbalance specialization and isolation; exploration of new questions; and bridging languages, cultures, habits of thought, and institutions through communication.  For more information, visit


The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. For more information, visit




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