The Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa is one of a kind — practicing state-of-the-art research techniques such as neuroimaging while also studying cyber behavior and conducting athletic concussion research. Located on the campus of the Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital, LIBR is an independently operated facility opened in 2009 to better understand the pathogenetic features of mental disorders.
Through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), genetic testing, behavioral assessment and therapeutics, LIBR scientists are improving the early detection, prevention and treatment of major neuropsychiatric diseases. TU’s Tandy School of Computer Science has had a hand in LIBR’s development from the outset.
“Several students stepped in to research and help build the computer system,” said Pat Bellgowan, a former LIBR and TU School of Community Medicine faculty member who also served as director of cognitive neuroscience. “It’s a small institute that focuses specifically on biomedical research, so it was nice to find a partner that specializes in other areas, particularly in information processing and bioinformatics.”
While LIBR scientists are grateful for TU’s commitment to collaborate on projects and share critical manpower, students from several disciplines –– computer science, biology and psychology –– benefit from the priceless research opportunities that offer grant writing experience and publication in national journals.
One of TU and LIBR’s largest collaborative projects is a research initiative to explore the neurobiology of cyber trust. Through the evaluation of fMRI brain scans and the online behavior exhibited in different scenarios, LIBR, the TU Institute of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Information Security are working to reduce the risk of security attacks that occur in the cyber traffic of America’s armed forces.
Also at LIBR, Bellgowan and TU have pioneered national research in athletic-related concussions with the help of Golden Hurricane athletics. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published LIBR’s research documenting a smaller hippocampal region of the brain and slower reaction times in TU football players with a history of concussions. The study is the most comprehensive ever to assess the effects of football specifically on college players.
“TU’s clinical expertise and the access we were given within the Golden Hurricane athletic department is unprecedented nationally,” Bellgowan said. “Other studies have evaluated older athletes, but no one has ever studied 20-year-olds until now.”
LIBR and TU are now preparing for the launch of their newest endeavor, the Tulsa 1,000, a groundbreaking project that will track and examine the moods of 1,000 Tulsa residents suffering from substance abuse and other mental health problems. A TU alumnus will coordinate the study, and TU students will assist with data intake and storage.
“LIBR wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of TU. The university is LIBR’s strongest partner and can be credited for much of its success,” Bellgowan said.