Research is the vital expression of humankind’s most important qualities: curiosity and imagination.
Explorers, inventors, pioneers—dedicated researchers on the frontiers of science and the humanities.
Insight, when it comes, changes everything.
NOMIS Insight films highlight the unique research journeys of NOMIS Awardees that, throughout the course of their NOMIS-supported projects, have generated new discoveries and insights, initiated new interdisciplinary collaborations, and inspired novel questions and new lines of inquiry. As these projects draw to a close, Insight films illuminate the pioneering foundational research that is “creating a spark” in the world of science.
To better understand the brain and to design better treatments for those who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as dissociative states, Deisseroth and his lab have developed a fundamental approach to look at the activity of neurons across the entire brain during behavior. The technology, optogenetics, uses light to turn on or off individual types of neurons using genes from microbes and was the focus of his project.
Through his NOMIS research project, Deisseroth and his team discovered a new class of light-sensitive molecules, which make light-responsive proteins that move charged particles across membranes—including one called Carmine. This transformative discovery enabled Deisseroth and other neuroscientists to investigate the brain’s activity noninvasively. He then introduced Fast Light and Calcium-Regulated Expression (FLiCRE), creating a neural activity map related to behavior in mice. This was followed by another groundbreaking discovery—the identification of cells and circuits in a specific area of the brain implicated in the subjective state of dissociation.
The Brain-Wide Dynamics project has given rise to new research methods and a unique perspective of the brain that are contributing to a better understanding of the internal representations in our minds that generate our sense of self.
What is the identity of blood-borne rejuvenating factors? Where do they come from? How do they enter the brain and communicate with it? What is the genetic basis of brain rejuvenation? How does the brain age in the first place? NOMIS Awardee Tony Wyss-Coray pursued these questions through his research project, Brain Rejuvenation Factors From Blood, at Stanford University from 2017 to 2022. Wyss-Coray’s Insight film presents the project, detailing the approaches and discoveries that have changed our understanding of brain aging.
To explore his research questions, Wyss-Coray and his team employed a combination of genetic, cell biology and omics approaches in killifish, mice and humans, and developed bioorthogonal tools for the in vivo labeling of proteins. Through his insights into the aging process, Wyss-Coray’s work could help slow down and prevent age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vascular dementia and stroke.
How do we relate to and respond to each other in a culture powered by images? This question was the focus of the Body and Image in Arts and Sciences (BIAS) research project led by NOMIS Awardee Manos Tsakiris at the Warburg Institute, University of London, from 2016 to 2022. Tsakiris’ Insight film tells the story of the BIAS project, from conception to studies to insights.
Integrating perspectives from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and the arts, the BIAS project sought to shed light on the interdependency between bodily responses and cognitive mechanisms in the way humans respond to images—in particular, how biological mechanisms and cultural factors shape human relationships in a culture powered by images.
The BIAS project not only enabled a better understanding of human relationships, but it also created the spark for new research directions and collaborations, inspiring the establishment of the Centre for the Politics of Feelings, which is addressing from a multidisciplinary perspective, how affect and emotions and their underlying neurophysiological mechanisms shape political behavior in intricate couplings with rationality, as well as how politics shapes and exploits affect and emotions.