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DISCOVERING THE BRAIN
For instance, what is the “movement center” in the brain that is thought to degenerate in Parkinson's disease? How can chemical compounds in brain cells influence the emotions we feel? Why does injury at a particular site on the head leave some patients unable to recognize an arm or a leg as part of their own body? Neuroscience is the field of study that endeavors to make sense of such diverse questions; at the same time, it points the way toward the effective treatment of dysfunctions. The exchange of information among a half-dozen branches of science and the clinical practice of mental health have shaped a new scientific approach to the study of the brain.
The fruitfulness of this approach reaches far beyond the health care and research professions into most people's everyday lives. The research itself has a wide range of applications, from alleviating many hundreds of nervous and mental diseases to enriching the lives of the healthy. Key policymakers supported this research. The United States Congress in 1989 passed a resolution sponsored by Congressman Silvio Conte declaring the 1990s to be the Decade of the Brain. Following the official proclamation by President George Bush, the 1990 symposium on the Decade of the Brain attracted the participation of First Lady Barbara Bush, Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan, Science Adviser to the President D. Allan Bromley, Congressman Conte, Senator Pete V. Domenici, and others.
At the beginning of the 1990s, neuroscience combines mature theory, lively new possibilities for investigation, and technology that can yield information unheard of even a few years ago: the genetic markers for an inherited predisposition toward some mental disorder, or the intimate structure, down to the individual molecules, of a receptor in the brain for a particular chemical compound, or medical images that convey the flow of energy in different areas while the brain manages such tasks as reading and thinking. The end of the decade may see the picture more richly detailed in some areas and changed almost beyond recognition in others.
In July 1990, a symposium brought scientists from all over the world to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., to discuss the state of the field. Dominick Purpura, professor of neuroscience and vice president for medical affairs at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, ad-