George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

CHHS Co-Leading New Transdisciplinary Center for Studying Disabilities

October 30, 2018

By Jiaxi Zhang

At Mason’s new transdisciplinary Center for Adaptive Systems for Brain-Body Interactions (CASBBI) founded by the Office of the Provost, an intercollegiate collaboration is led by Dr. Siddhartha Sikdar (Volgenau School of Engineering) and codirected by  Dr. Naomi Lynn Gerber (College of Health and Human Services) and Dr. James Thompson (College of Humanities and Social Sciences).

By leveraging expertise from Mason’s Departments of Bioengineering, Psychology, Health Administration and Policy, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Physics, the CASBBI team brings together members with research backgrounds in bioengineering, health informatics, human movement and behavioral measurement, human machine interaction and multiscale imaging.

This transdisciplinary team is dedicated to addressing transdisciplinary research problems including chronic pain, substances abuse and addictive behaviors, autism disorders and mobility impairment, with the goal of achieving better understanding of body/brain interactions in order to facilitate better treatment for individuals with physical and psychological disabilities across the lifespan.

“This is really an attempt to develop strong intercollegiate ties, the expertise, the network, the experience of people from very different professional backgrounds and disciplines. We work together on an ongoing basis, and faculty contribute beyond the technical aspect. We try to break that construct down so that the planning and institution of the projects and the interpretation of the data are from a transdisciplinary perspective. That is new, and it is very difficult to do because for researchers from very different backgrounds, it is working together to understand what’s possible in order to ask questions that are meaningful to multiple disciplines,” Gerber noted.

This collaborative center also brings opportunities for achievements that each college couldn’t make on its own. By leveraging resources from multiple disciplines, the center is able to explore new questions, and its work can be enhanced by input from researchers of other disciplines.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising that the CASBBI center is busy with a number of very important projects currently on-going. One of them is a weekly meeting for faculty, graduate and postdoctoral students who are participating in the center activities to present their results. This meeting also provides mentorship and educational opportunity for our graduate students, where topics such as grant submissions, specific aims and research questions’ generation and funding opportunities.

The new 3T MRI scanner is run by Dr. James Thompson, a co-director of CASBBI, who is encouraging its use for Mason investigators and particularly CASBBI investigators. As Gerber explains, “The center is using this as a magnet to pull in people who are doing investigational work that might want to incorporate MRI scans.”

Related people: Naomi Lynn Gerber, MD
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