UVA Grand Challenges

UVA Grand Challenges | Brain and Neuroscience

The University's Great and Good 2030 Plan identifies Brain and Neuroscience as one of five research focus areas. University leadership recently announced that Brain and Neuroscience is a priority research area with plans to make substantial investments in the upcoming 2021-22 academic year through the Grand Challenges Research Investments program. Four broad thematic areas for these potential investments have been identified and include Brain Development and Cognitive Neuroscience, Aging and Neurodegeneration, Pain and Addiction, and Computational and Data Neuroscience, and suggestions about other potential areas are welcome.

The Brain Institute, in partnership with the Provost’s Office and the Vice President for Research (VPR), is facilitating Idea Generating Events via Zoom and is soliciting web-based feedback to begin to prepare for the fall Grand Challenges Brain and Neuroscience Panel Discussion Event. This one-day Panel Discussion Event, The Future of Brain and Neuroscience, will be co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office and VPR and feature interdisciplinary panels. 

We want to hear from you about areas, themes, or research questions where substantial investments leverage existing strengths to transform neuroscience research at UVA and impact our communities. 

Idea Generating Events

The purpose of the Idea Generating Events is to generate ideas for each thematic area. We will also offer a general session for those that cannot attend the other planned sessions. These events are offered via Zoom and also recorded and made available broadly to the UVA community.


Brain and Neuroscience General Session | Thursday, September 2, 10-11AM ET

Main Session (recording)

Breakout Sessions | Brain Injury (recording), General Neuroscience (recording), Neuroimmunology (recording


Aging and Neurodegeneration | Tuesday, September, 7, 2-3PM ET

Main Session (recording)

Breakout Sessions | Dementia from Cells to Society (recording), Mechanisms of Cognitive Aging (recording), Traumatic Brain Injury (recording)


Computational and Data Neuroscience | Wednesday, September 8, 10-11AM ET

Main Session (recording)

Breakout Sessions | Computational Neuroimaging (recording), Multi-Modal Integration and Analysis (recording), Network Modeling (recording)


Pain and Addiction | Wednesday, September 8, 2-3PM ET

Main Session and Breakout Topics | Addiction, Interoception, Pain (recording)


Brain Development and Cognitive Neuroscience | Thursday, September 9, 10-11AM ET

Main Session (recording)

Breakout Sessions | Autism Spectrum Disorders (recording), Human Brain Development & Intellectual Disabilities (recording), Mechanisms of Neurodevelopment (recording)



Web-Based Feedback

We ask you to provide feedback on themes for these potential investments through a web-based platform whether or not you participate in the live sessions.

Click the icons below by September 10, 2021 to comment to help refine areas for university investment. 

If you have questions or would prefer to submit your feedback via email, please contact uvabrain@virginia.edu


The purpose of this idea-generating activity is to characterize high impact, societally important, interdisciplinary research programs where there are substantial opportunities for UVA to lead in the four thematic areas and other possible areas for potential investment. These Idea Generating Events and the ability to provide feedback online is intended to ensure that everyone participating in person and remotely has a chance to contribute.

There are 47 million Americans between the ages of 65 and 85, 7 million older than 85, and in twenty years, these numbers would increase to 65 million and 15 million. The CDC estimated that there were 5.8 million Americans with dementia in 2020, a number expected to double to 8.4 million in 2030. Many UVA investigators tackle the grand challenge posed by aging and neurodegeneration. What would enable us to do transformative research in this area? We define neurodegeneration very broadly, including conditions caused by genetic defects, normal age-related cognitive decline, pathological aging such as Alzheimer's disease, vascular injury, trauma and tumors. Consider diverse approaches from neurons to glia to social determinants of health.
Understanding typical and atypical brain development can optimize our approaches to healthy brain development. Investigators across the University are engaged in understanding and shaping brain development. We seek your guidance in making transformative investments in the area of brain development. These approaches can range from fundamental neurobiology to study of typical and atypical cognitive development (e,g. autism), the neuroscience of education, and neurological or developmental disorders.
Understanding pain and other visceral body sensations in neuroscience. Pain is an internal sensation (interoception). The brain monitors blood pressure, respiration, the gut microbiome, among other sensations. Understanding and treating pain is a national priority because of the opioid addiction crisis. We can study addiction from a cellular or molecular level, to specific therapies for individuals, and understanding the social and cultural context in which addiction occurs.
Computational and data science approaches are transforming neuroscience. Computational methods can analyze and interpret images, electroencephalograms, brain gene expression and probe the structure of critical brain proteins such as ion channels and receptors. Informatics approaches can integrate vast pools of clinical, imaging, genomics, and longitudinal data. Brain stimulation and brain-computer interfaces have the potential to not only to understand brain function but treat many disorders.
The leadership has identified four thematic areas in preliminary discussions, but other suggestions about research areas are welcome. We want to hear from you about interdisciplinary research themes that leverage existing strengths to transform neuroscience research at UVA and impact our communities.

UVA Grand Challenges Research Investments



Please contact uvabrain@virginia.edu with any questions or comments.