The Winners of the UCI Brain Pilot Grant Awards

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the UCI Brain Initiative has awarded two multidisciplinary teams Pilot Grant Awards for their innovative research proposals. In addition, all of the interdisciplinary teams who submitted proposals have received premium access to the Dimensions Team Science Portal to help support their research.

We are thrilled with the positive response to this program and we look forward to finding additional ways to strengthen collaborative, cutting-edge neuroscience research at UCI.

5 people sit at a table with laptops and stare at a larger screen

The two winning projects were:

A scientist looks at a slide and is about to place it under a microscope.
A bunch of landscape imagery merged over each other

Investigating Exploration and the ‘Aha’

Archimedes was once asked by the king of Syracuse to determine whether a crown was made of pure gold. Archimedes pondered this task as he went to take a bath and noted that the water displaced when he entered his bathtub was equal to the volume of his body immersed in the water. “Eureka!” he exclaimed as he ran through the streets naked.

What happens in your brain when you experience an ‘Aha!’ moment? Anecdotally you may feel your world expand and your understanding blossom…but what does that mean and how can someone create that experience?

These questions sparked an innovative collaboration between two scientists, Linda Palmer and Christine Gall, from the UCI School of Medicine and an artist, Jesse Jackson, from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Doctors Guo and Xu pose for a photo with Dr. Xu’s son at a lab party in 2019.
Two hands are about to put an acupuncture needle into another hand

Please join me in congratulating the award winners. We look forward to seeing the results of their work in the coming months. I would like to thank Provost Hal Stern for his steadfast leadership and support of the UCI Brain Initiative and other interdisciplinary programs at UCI.

UCI is well-positioned to be a leader in this type of collaborative research and our highly successful public launch at the end of 2019 was merely the beginning. I invite you to explore the resources available at and share your story of collaboration with us.

Stay safe and healthy.


Michael A. Yassa
Director, UCI Brain Initiative