Fact Sheet: The John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center

Collaborative and Cutting Edge Neuroscience Research

  • When fully occupied, the PNRC will bring together more than 800 scientists in 85 laboratories from the following NIH Institutes and Centers:
    • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    • National Institute of Mental Health
    • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
    • National Eye Institute
    • National Human Genome Research Institute
    • National Institute on Aging
    • National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
    • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
    • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
    • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
  • Scientists will work in a collaborative fashion across disciplines using state-of-the-art resources. Shared facilities include a peptide sequencing facility, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) suite, and a light imaging facility.
  • Research will include basic and clinical neuroscience, and focus on increasing our understanding of typical and atypical brain development and function. Examples include:
    • Identifying how genetic variability contributes to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
    • Studying the genetics of brain development, including factors that contribute to developmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
    • Understanding how inherited gene mutations contribute to hearing loss, which could lead to ways to predict who may lose their hearing or prevent some forms of hearing loss altogether.
    • Studying the genetics of Gaucher disease as a model to understand lysosomal storage disorders -- rare inherited diseases caused by abnormal accumulation of materials in the lysosome (a part of the cell).
    • Working to understand the mechanisms underlying nerve cell death in neurodegenerative disorders and trying to identify drugs that can prevent this loss.
    • Understanding the structure and function of ion channels and transporters that allow communication within and between nerve cells.
    • Studying how nerve cells communicate to help us better understand how we learn and remember, and exploring diseases in which nerve cells do not communicate effectively.
    • Using tools to turn on or turn off various neural circuits in model organisms to determine what role these circuits play in behaviors such as decision making.
    • Using large-scale microscopy to develop maps of brain circuits of the central nervous system to better understand the basis of behavior.
    • Using the olfactory (sense of smell) system as a model to understand how the brain can regrow nerve cells and make new connections after disease or injury.
    • Dissecting the neural basis of chronic pain.

The Most Energy Efficient Life Science Laboratory in the World

  • Constructed by Whiting-Turner and comprising over 500,000 square feet, the PNRC facility is one of the largest neuroscience buildings in the world.
  • The PNRC was designed in two phases between 2001 and 2014. Phase I was designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and Phase II was designed by Perkins + Will.
  • The overall design of the two phases leverages shared spaces and systems. The design of the facility’s atrium, which connects the two, is bold and contemporary to reflect the dynamic nature of neuroscience research.
  • The facility’s MRI suite houses one of the largest MRI devices in the world. At a magnetic strength of 18 Tesla, it is 360,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic shield, and required a 12 inch thick, 356 ton steel enclosure for shielding.
  • The facility has numerous energy and water efficiency features, including solar panels, 1500-feet deep geothermal wells, and chilled beam technology. Ultimately, the design is 25 percent more energy-efficient than a traditional laboratory building.
  • During the height of construction, approximately 400 workers were on site daily and over one million labor hours contributed to the project without a single lost-time accident.

The Intersection of Neuroscience and Art

The atrium of the PNRC will be used as a public gallery devoted to the celebration of neuroscience. The initial artwork in the gallery features neuroscience-inspired sculptures by Rebecca Kamen, MFA, a professor emeritus formerly at Northern Virginia Community College. In 2012, Ms. Kamen was an NIH artist in residence. Since that time, her sculptures have been based on her studies of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of neuroscience, and discussions with many NIH neuroscience researchers.

This page last reviewed on May 8, 2019