Understanding the brain's incredibly complex physiology and information-processing capabilities is one of the great challenges of contemporary science.  To obtain such understanding is generally thought to require cooperation among many disciplines. Research in this area has a long history at Brown University.  Among our results is the universally recognized BCM theory of synaptic plasticity. This theory has played an important role in our effort to obtain an understanding of the cellular and molecular basis for learning and memory storage.

The predecessor of the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, the Brown University Center for Neural Science, was created in the early 1970s. Brown University's research program and undergraduate concentration in the neural sciences were among the first such interdisciplinary programs in the country.

Initially supported by seed grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Ittleson Foundation, we have also been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, the National Eye Institute, the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke, the Mathers Foundation, the March of Dimes, the Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research,  the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Charles A. Dana Foundation, among others.
Until 1992, the Center for Neural Science was responsible for the academic program in Neural Science for undergraduate students as well as the interdisciplinary research program in the study of mind and brain.  In July 1992, an academic department was established to accommodate the growing undergraduate concentration and doctoral program. At that time the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems was created to carry on the interdisciplinary research and to participate in graduate education.

After the creation of the Brain Sciences Program in 1998, one of whose aims was to bring together under a single umbrella  the very diverse work related to brain science at Brown, the Institute focused its activity on problems in theoretical biology especially those that require close interaction between theory and experiment.

Selected Dissertations