When Nobel Laureate Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., Ph.D., moved his world-famous Neurosciences Institute to La Jolla in 1993, he and his colleagues created laboratories for research in various brain studies as well as a theoretical research program. The nonprofit Institute is great brains studying the brain—the body’s most mysterious organ.
One of the Institute’s studies involves the link between language and music in the brain. Edelman himself loves music—as do many scientists, it so happens—and he is a classically trained violinist. An auditorium, one of the most acoustically ideal auditoriums for music in America, is one of the Institute’s three buildings. And the Institute generously provides this premier performance space for free to nonprofit arts and educational programs in San Diego, insisting that these groups charge $50 or less per ticket to make such music accessible to more people.
To make the theater space available for nonprofits, the Institute hosts one fundraising event per year. This year the fundraiser is called “Minding the Arts,” and it will be held at the Institute on Sept. 18 from 4 to 8 p.m.
This event supports the Institute's philanthropic mission for the arts. A cocktail reception allows guests to enjoy fine food from the likes of and , among many others. After the reception, there will be performances by the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Taiko, and a jazz ensemble provided by the .
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library Executive Director Erika Torri talks about what the availability of the auditorium has meant to its performing arts programs: “We are a small organization, and we could not present concerts if there was an appropriate rental fee attached. We certainly would not be able to bring world-renowned musicians here, paying travel and other expenses for them, if we had to pay for the use of an auditorium as well.”
She continues, “We could not ask for a more beautiful hall, with fabulous acoustics, or a more accommodating staff. The Neurosciences Auditorium is famous. To be able to use it for free is incredible. We thank the Neurosciences administration, especially Dr. Edelman and Dr. [W. Einar] Gall, for being so generous. They truly have made an impact on the cultural well-being of many San Diego arts institutions.”
The upcoming fundraiser, in addition to being entertaining and supportive of the Institute’s work, also allows those interested in the fascinating world of brain study to learn a bit more about it while chatting with the Institute’s scientists and trustees.
The Institute’s contributions in the field have been significant. Rachel Jonte, vice president for Institute relations, says part of its success is due to Edelman’s vision of keeping the group of scientists small—no more than 40—and having an in-house dining area so they can meet and discuss their findings with each other every day. This inevitably results in putting one discovery together with another, she said.
Jonte tells the story about one day, several years ago, when a scientist who is a sleep expert was sharing what he was doing with another scientist, a fly expert. Together they wondered if fruit flies slept. (The fruit fly DNA sequence had already been decoded. About 60 percent to 70 percent of known human disease genes are also present in fruit flies, which reproduce quickly, and that is why they have become common in scientific labs.) This chat led to a new research project that yielded the discovery that fruit flies in fact do sleep. Now labs all over the world use fruit flies in studies that may result in new drugs for human sleep problems. This kind of serendipitous research might not be funded by the likes of the National Institute of Health, which would require an explanation of what was going to be studied to determine if it was grant worthy.
Dr. Larry Kline, a donor and member of the board of trustees of the Institute, shares why he believes it is very important: "I am a supporter of the Neurosciences Institute because it is the quintessential example of an uncontaminated system of scientific investigation that isn't controlled by industry and not polluted by government grant timetable reports and bureaucracy. Instead, it can focus on scientific creativity and innovation. Fresh creative thinking is essential to good science but hard to find in the usual academic world. The Institute values ideas and produces new science more efficiently than many of the largest academic centers in the world."
Kline added that the dollar-to-delivery ratio is extraordinary, "thanks to Dr. Edelman and his brilliant scientific community."
"It is a rare gift to the scientific world and is truly a place with powerful potential that delivers quality science that can have a huge impact on us all. It's an honor to be able to support such greatness,” said Kline.
Kline says that the Institute’s board is an amazing group of accomplished people from various parts of the U.S. and Canada, a who's who of academia, business, economics, medicine and philanthropy with whom he is proud to serve.
In fact, one member of the Institute’s board of trustees is Oliver Sacks, M.D., renowned neurologist and author, who has had an ongoing relationship with the Institute since 1981. His career has been focused on the ways in which individuals survive and adapt to different neurological diseases. One of his most famous books is Awakenings, which was made into an Academy Award nominated movie with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in 1990. About people with neurological disorders, it is a true story based on Sacks’ work with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness who had been unable to move on their own for decades. The treatment used the then-new drug L-Dopa, which had extraordinary results for a time.
For tickets to the gala and an opportunity to vist the Institute, call 858-626-2022 or email Colby@nsi.edu.