May 20, 2020

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the UCI Brain Initiative has awarded two multidisciplinary teams Pilot Grant Awards for their innovative research proposals. In addition, all of the interdisciplinary teams who submitted proposals have received premium access to the Dimensions Team Science Portal to help support their research.
We are thrilled with the positive response to this program and we look forward to finding additional ways to strengthen collaborative, cutting-edge neuroscience research at UCI.

The two winning projects were:

woman in the labwaterfront scenery

Investigating Exploration and the ‘Aha’

Archimedes was once asked by the king of Syracuse to determine whether a crown was made of pure gold. Archimedes pondered this task as he went to take a bath and noted that the water displaced when he entered his bathtub was equal to the volume of his body immersed in the water. “Eureka!” he exclaimed as he ran through the streets naked.
What happens in your brain when you experience an ‘Aha!’ moment? Anecdotally you may feel your world expand and your understanding blossom…but what does that mean and how can someone create that experience?
These questions sparked an innovative collaboration between two scientists, Linda Palmer and Christine Gall, from the UCI School of Medicine and an artist, Jesse Jackson, from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Read More

two men and a childan arm with needles inserted

Studying the Neural Mechanisms of Acupuncture on Cardiovascular Function

Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine and has been researched extensively in numerous medical applications including various types of pain. However, its contributions to improving cardiovascular function have not been studied in detail and remain a mystery. There is a paucity of mechanistic studies using the appropriate animal models that can understand the impact of acupuncture on heart and brain function.
“Findings from this research will address important questions in the field of acupuncture. This will be the first time anyone has studied neural circuits using these advanced viral and genetic tools that will help map acupuncture’s action in the modulation of cardiovascular function,” explained Dr. Zhi-Ling Guo a cardiology researcher from the UCI Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute (SSIHI), who along with Dr. Shaista Malik, SSIHI associate vice chancellor, and Dr. Xiangmin Xu, School of Medicine researcher, put together the winning proposal.

Read More

Please join me in congratulating the award winners. We look forward to seeing the results of their work in the coming months. I would like to thank Provost Hal Stern for his steadfast leadership and support of the UCI Brain Initiative and other interdisciplinary programs at UCI.

UCI is well-positioned to be a leader in this type of collaborative research and our highly successful public launch at the end of 2019 was merely the beginning. I invite you to explore the resources available at and share your story of collaboration with us.
Stay safe and healthy.


michael yassa email signature
Michael A. Yassa Ph.D.
Director, UCI Brain Initiative