Francisco Lacerda. Foto: Eva Dalin
Francisco Lacerda. Foto: Eva Dalin

The University is investing an initial capital of SEK 44.5 million into Stockholm University Brain Imaging Centre, SUBIC, which is managed by the Department of Linguistics and operated in collaboration with several departments. The collaboration initially includes the fields of evolutionary zoology, psychology, mathematics, neurochemistry, philosophy and culture and aesthetics.  The equipment, primarily an X-ray microscope and an MEG scanner, will be placed in the Arrhenius Laboratory.

Multidisciplinary meeting place

“The centre will be a unique facility in Sweden for inter-faculty basic research on cognitive and communicative processes from an evolutionary and developmental perspective,” says Professor Francisco Lacerda, based in the Department of Linguistics and head of SUBIC.
The basic research at the Department of Linguistics will focus, for example, on changes in brain functions during language development in childhood, as well as potential differences in brain functions in relation to various linguistic-typological or grammatical phenomena.

“The most exciting thing about SUBIC is that it will be a multidisciplinary meeting place where the University’s wide range of academic expertise can be utilised to address fundamental philosophical and scientific issues,” says Francisco Lacerda.

Mapping fish brains

Niclas Kolm, associate professor of zoology, is one of the researchers behind SUBIC. He conducts research on brain development in vertebrates, but considers SUBIC an opportunity to broaden the work on the evolution of animal brains to include insects and other invertebrates.
“SUBIC allows for unique studies of the evolution of the brain’s anatomy, as we are able, for the first time, to combine extremely high image resolutions with quick analyses,” says Niclas Kolm.
It is possible to run large sample sizes within or between different species in a short period of time. These analyses are very likely to completely change our understanding of how the functioning of the brain depends on its anatomy and how animal behaviour is influenced by the brain’s anatomy, both during the development from young to old individuals and throughout evolution.

New research areas

“The centre’s interdisciplinary focus enables brain researchers from different fields to come together. This melting pot will create strong synergies and put Stockholm University on the world map when it comes to research on the human and animal brain,” says Niclas Kolm.
SUBIC has many positive effects on the University’s psychological research, according to Håkan Fischer, professor of biological psychology.
“Much of modern psychological research now includes studies of the functioning of the brain. Having a brain imaging centre here at the University will increase opportunities to conduct good research, as it will be easier to both attract major research grants and recruit national and international top researchers and doctoral students to the department.” 
He is hoping for interdisciplinary research on issues in new research areas, such as “Neuro-law”, “Neuro-economics” and “Neuro-philosophy”.  
“We also want to work together with our colleagues in the humanities, where there are amazing opportunities to study various aspects of ‘the cultural brain’.”

Platform for independence

Maria Larsson is professor of psychology and one of the researchers at SUBIC. She emphasises that SUBIC will also be a platform for independence. The University’s psychology researchers currently have to carry out brain imaging studies at other universities around Europe.
“Now we are ‘bringing the method home’, which will create completely different conditions for our research with great potential for synergy across different fields. Stockholm University will also become more attractive in recruitment contexts,” says Maria Larsson.
Clinical research will also receive a boost from SUBIC.  The access to brain imaging methods will increase the knowledge of how common diseases such as depression and anxiety disorders, as well as the treatment thereof, affect our brain functions.