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DISCOVERING THE BRAIN
and other mental disorders that show evidence of some physical as well as psychological basis.
In the opinion of many researchers, another challenge that awaits neuroscience is the examination of human nature itself and of the destructive strain that humankind seems to carry from one generation to the next like an inherited disease. Human history is dense with examples of aggression against our own and other species, for every imaginable reason and in every conceivable form. Perhaps this tendency is an inescapable part of our nature—or, indeed, of any animal nature. When coupled with the endless capabilities of human intelligence, however, it threatens destruction on a scale that would make any further research irrelevant. The challenge is to come to terms with human aggression before it reduces all our possibilities to silence. Neuroscience, with its theoretical, experimental, and clinical perspectives on the human brain and the human mind, can contribute significantly to meeting this challenge.
As mentioned earlier, the Decade of the Brain was launched with a symposium. Under the sponsorship of the Institute of Medicine and the National Institute of Mental Health, many of the world's eminent neuroscientists gathered in July 1990 to discuss some of the exciting results from recent investigations and to plan research strategies for the future—strategies to make the most of the new prospects created by technology and by alliances between the public and private sectors (see Chapter 9 ). Maxwell Cowan, chief scientific officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and chairman of the symposium's steering committee, listed three objectives for the event.
First, it was a call to celebrate the great achievements in brain research, the years of painstaking work, at times without evident reward, and the advances—some small, some almost revolutionarily large—that have shaped the field during the second half of this century. Second, the symposium was to bring to the attention of policymakers the rich opportunities offered by neuroscience to address so many of the illnesses and disorders that threaten our country's public health, lower our productivity, and bring about great suffering for millions of Americans every year. Vigorous support for further research during the Decade of the Brain will be crucial if neuroscience is to extend today's experimental results into clinical practice