Our first major initiative was developing the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, now one of the world’s leading centres for theoretical neuroscience. To take advantage of the latest developments, we have created an additional research institute, the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, which will be the focus of our long-term research funding in the UK.
Gatsby’s pioneering investment in neuroscience began in the 1990s with the establishment of the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit (GCNU) at University College London (UCL). The Unit provided a unique opportunity for a critical mass of theoreticians to interact closely with each other and with UCL’s other world-class research groups in neuroscience and related areas.
Driven by the belief that technological developments in experimental neuroscience have created an opportunity to link it with theoretical work in the area of neural circuits and behaviour, we created the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at UCL in partnership with the Wellcome Trust. This has led to the recruitment of a multidisciplinary team which will eventually consist of about 200 scientists and support staff investigating how brain circuit function underlies behaviours. To date, key core facilities have been established to enable tackling cutting-edge biological questions. These include the Fabrication Laboratory (manufacturing and electronics workshops), IT / High-Performance Computing infrastructure, Advanced Microscopy, Virology and Histology.
GCNU moved into the state-of-the-art SWC building in 2016 to maximise the benefits of close links between experimentalists, theorists and machine learning researchers. GCNU and SWC are developing deeper links through: overlapping PhD programmes; a senior post-doctoral fellowship programme jointly mentored by SWC and GCNU faculty to afford each fellow greater independence to pursue projects actively engaging both theory and experimental domains; and a new Group Leader working at the interface of machine learning and experimental neuroscience.
Solving the mystery that is the brain is a vast project and effective collaboration between scientists will accelerate the discoveries that are ready to be made. Close proximity can enhance these interactions and provide a common focus for scientists, students and visiting faculty.