The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a $26.5 million gift from alumnus James H. Simons and his wife, Marilyn, to create the Simons Center for the Social Brain.
Awarded through the Simons Foundation, the gift will support efforts to catalyze innovative research on the brain and translate that work into the improved diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In partnership with the foundation's Autism Research Initiative, the Simons Center will work to complement and extend autism research already being conducted in the Boston and Cambridge area.
To that end, the center will undertake high-risk, high-reward projects that target problems which present difficult but solvable challenges for the field. Scientists from the center will collaborate with researchers from other institutions after first laying the foundation for its mission by developing programs based around four research areas where MIT has particular expertise: genetics and gene discovery, models and mechanisms, cognitive neuroscience, and translation and therapeutics.
"Through visionary gifts to MIT, Jim and Marilyn Simons, together with the Simons Foundation, have created powerful momentum in the drive to understand and, ultimately, treat autism," said MIT president Susan Hockfield. "In launching the Simons Center for the Social Brain, the Simons Foundation advances our boldest ambitions to define new routes to understanding the brain and mind, and to lift the burden of ASD for individuals and their families."