Our History

The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) was established in December 2006, and officially launched on January 25th, 2008. Originally named the Institute for Brain, Mind, Genes, and Behavior, the Institute for Brain Sciences grew out of the university’s 2006 strategic plan to, among other priorities, propel neuroscience research at Duke by connecting researchers and scholars with a broad range of expertise dispersed  across Departments and Schools.


Beginning in 2007, DIBS began granting significant seed funding for “innovative approaches to problems that transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines, integrating brain sciences with social sciences, physical sciences, gene sciences, mathematics, the humanities, and engineering.”

Over the years, the “Incubator Awards” helped establish many new Working Groups, reporting a 7:1 return on investments in subsequent external grants. The teams they recruited contributed a wealth of new knowledge and tools for clinicians and society. Examples include collaborations by clinicians and engineers to make a smartphone app to diagnose autism in toddlers and new tools for turning brain activity into speech.

More recently, “Germinator Awards” have focused on trainee-led projects to encourage research independence for graduate student and post-doctoral scholars. 

Seed grants are currently paused until further notice.

education in mind

One of the Institute’s early signature achievements was the establishment of new academic degrees in Neuroscience (Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Minor) for the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. These were approved in the spring of 2008 and made available to Duke undergraduate students in the fall of 2009. Over the next decade, DIBS nurtured the growth of these highly enrolled, interdisciplinary programs, transferring the administration of the mature programs, now among the largest at Duke, to the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience in 2018. The Institute continues to support them through the provision of facilities for teaching and learning, and partnership in the Summer Neuroscience Program for students aspiring to launch senior theses.

Over the same decade, the Institute underwent significant expansion of funding and activities. In 2005,  the first cohort was admitted to the Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program (CNAP) within the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. CNAP is a unique offering for entering Duke graduate students, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration through multiple laboratory rotations and joint mentorship, followed by affiliation with a PhD-granting program.

In 2013, DIBS helped spearhead the Bass Connections initiative for societally-relevant interdisciplinary student and faculty team projects by administering the Brain & Society theme and its teams.

Over the years, scholars supported by DIBS have also been pioneers of education. Classic textbooks by DIBS faculty curated knowledge to offer “state of the art tours” introducing students to modern neuroscience. Freely available online courses taught by DIBS faculty have accrued hundreds of thousands of learners across the world. New teaching labs and installations now promise to expand our educational reach and impact even further.

Our most recent educational innovations aim to take full advantage of Duke’s resources to radically increase access to transformative brain science research experiences. Paid research internships for high school (Duke University Neuroscience Experience) and undergraduate students (Cognitive Neuroscience Research Internship) use extensive outreach to offer students from all backgrounds an opportunity to experience the joy of neuroscience research under guided mentorship, while gaining broadly relevant professional skills, such as computational training and science communication.


In 2015, we opened the doors to our new headquarters, The Cube. The modern, glass-fronted structure leads below ground to a space with collaborative classrooms, a 150-seat lecture hall, and a hands-on neuroanatomy lab.

The Cube is also a physical gathering space and intellectual home for DIBS scholars dispersed across Departments and Schools, particularly those embedded in units outside traditional neuroscience or psychology. Intentionally positioned at the crossroads of Duke's main campus, school of engineering, and school of medicine, The Cube's location reflects our mission to unite scholars from all backgrounds with a shared curiosity about the brain.

The new DIBS Brain Exploratory labs (to be named with community input) will leverage this unique space for inquiry-based digital media experiences of brain structure and function.


Today, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences remains committed to supporting the collaborations of our faculty members, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and undergraduates in the three pillars of education, research, and engagement.

To inspire and educate new generations of scholars, clinicians, and advocates; to make science accessible to all; and to accelerate innovation and translation, DIBS continues to evolve in pursuit of our mission: To promote interdisciplinary brain science and translate discoveries into solutions for health and society.


There's more to us than the past

Learn about our future directions, mission, values, impact and more by exploring our Strategic Plan.

Read our Mission statement, Vision, Strategic Goals, and more here


Behind the glass walls and continued success of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences lies a core group of visionary leaders who have shaped our journey and guided DIBS to become a critical hub connecting researchers across campus, and inspiring all with the wonders of neuroscience.

Dr. Alison Adcock served as an associate director with Dr. Dawson before taking on her current role as interim director of the Institute for Brain Sciences, alongside her complementary leadership as director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. During her time as interim director, Dr. Adcock has helped shepherd many new and exciting initiatives, including an emphasis on democratizing neuroscience through paid and mentored research experiences for undergraduate and high school students, as well as a series of interactive and highly-visible art installations at The Cube to engage and interest people from all backgrounds in brain science.

On the heels of co-leading the DIBS faculty governance committee, Dr. Geri Dawson took the reigns as director of the institute in 2019. Dr. Dawson now heads the Duke Center for Autism & Brain Development.

Co-chaired by future director Geri Dawson and associate director Nicole Schramm-Saptya, the faculty governance committee saw the expansion of the Research Incubator Award Program, new seed-funding programs, addition of project teams to Bass Connections, among other successes.

During his time as director of the Duke-UNC Center for Brain Imaging and Analysis, Dr. Allen Song also served as the interim director of DIBS.

Dr. Michael Platt came to the institute after serving as the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke. During his tenure as DIBS director, Platt helped prompt the creation of the Center for Autism & Brain Development and the Center on Addiction & Behavior Change.

Dr. David Fitzpatrick was the founding director of the institute. After his time at Duke, he accepted a position as the CEO and scientific director of the Max Planck Florida Institute.