The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) aims to make science accessible and inclusive for everyone (students, trainees, faculty) through several key initiatives, and be a supporter of and investor in high-risk/high-reward, interdisciplinary research on the brain at Duke.

What is the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences?

Organizationally, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) is an interdisciplinary institute overseen by the Provost's Office on Interdisciplinary Studies.

Functionally, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences leverages the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience, which spans many (if not all) STEM fields, to connect researchers studying the brain across both the main and medical campuses at Duke. In addition to connecting scientists, we also strive towards making science more inclusive and accessible for students at all levels through paid research opportunities, and provide exceptional neuroscience education at Duke. 

While the specific programming we support has evolved since DIBS's inception in 2008, our work continues to be guided by three main, synergistic principles:

  1. Make science for everyone,
  2. Catalyze innovative research, and
  3. Provide exceptional education.

What do we do?

Institutes can often be a nebulous operation, and DIBS is not immune to folks sometimes asking what it is we actually "do" on campus and beyond. Here are a few of the many priorities and programs we sponsor, framed by the guiding principles listed above.

1) science is for everyone

A newly articulated goal that we're focusing on is a mission to democratize science. DIBS is continuing our efforts to make science accessible both as something students in and around Duke can experience through paid research opportunities, as well as something that anyone in any discipline (poetry; architecture; classical studies; etc.) can both engage with/contribute to and understand.

Duke University Neuroscience experience

The DIBS-sponsored and trainee led Duke University Neuroscience Experience (DUNE) provides local high school students with a paid, cutting-edge research experience in neuroscience laboratories at Duke and encourages participation by students from underrepresented minority groups in STEM.

cognitive neuroscience research intiative

The DIBS-sponsored and trainee led Cognitive Neuroscience Research Internship (CNRI) is a fully paid semester-long research internship for Duke undergraduate students who want to learn how to conduct research on human behavior and cognition. In addition to gaining first-hand experience in a research lab, participants also learn versatile skills like coding in Python, that they can use no matter what field or career they choose to pursue.

Summer neuroscience program

The Summer Neuroscience Program is a co-sponsored program that DIBS along with the department of psychology & neuroscience fund to provide a jumpstart for undergraduates for their senior theses by providing a paid opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty mentors during the summer . 

2) Catalyzing Innovative Research

We are sometimes thought of as a “matchmaking” service for brain science researchers at Duke, and we love that. Neuroscience is an inherently interdisciplinary research field, and through our 200+ member Faculty Network, we’ve become the lightening rod on campus to attract, connect, and galvanize many of the neuroscientists to collaborate.

In addition to creating a Faculty Network of brain science researchers at Duke, we also provide programming and financial support for interdisciplinary scientists through several programs.

Seed grants

We regularly award grants for trainees and faculty doing high risk/high reward, interdisciplinary research in neuroscience at Duke. This long-standing program has yielded many advances in science (see some examples below), as well as a strong return on investment - for every dollar spent on the seed grant awards, seven dollars are returned to Duke through external funding and grants. Scientific achievements that originated from seed grants include:

Research groups

DIBS hosts and supports research groups united by a common interest in an area of brain science that is especially suited to advancement by interdisciplinary study and are co-convened by faculty, postdocs, students, and staff from across campus. Each research group has developed a balanced program addressing both fundamental and translational issues. The research groups receive funding from DIBS to develop programs such as journal clubs, guest speaker series, workshops, and larger-scale meetings.


DIBS also supports research communities united by interest areas within the brain sciences and co-convened by faculty from a wide variety of departments. Each has developed a vibrant program that promotes research, education, and outreach addressing both fundamental and translational issues.

3) providing exceptional education

DIBS has a long-standing history of supporting and providing exceptional and genuine brain educational experiences related to brain science at Duke. Some examples include:

Bass Connections

DIBS developed and continues to oversee the Bass Connections theme “Brain & Society”, along with its many teams within the theme.

Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program

Developed and sponsored by the DIB’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program (CNAP) provides graduate students with the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary educational experience involving multiple departments and outstanding faculty teachers and mentors.

Neuroscience major & minor

Created and fine-tuned at DIBS, the undergraduate neuroscience major and minor programs are now managed by the department of psychology & neuroscience.

The Need for a Neuroimaging Center

Despite Duke being an early pioneer in both the use of and teaching with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we are without a standalone brain imaging center. fMRI scanners at Duke Hospital and at nearby universities are available but have significant limitations and drawbacks for researchers on campus. As such, a new focus for the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, spearheaded by our interim Director, R. Alison Adcock, M.D., Ph.D., is to find a suitable location on Duke's main campus for a brain imaging center and raise funds to establish and sustain it.

In addition to the massive support this will provide for brain researchers at Duke, a neuroimaging center will also complement and enhance our three guiding principles:

  •  Making science for everyone
  • Catalyzing innovative research: researchers at Duke are limited to where and when they can conduct brain imaging studies on-campus or nearby. The new neuroimaging center will enable imaging studies by collaborating faculty at Duke to study populations that are unable to participate in fMRI studies with currently available facilities on-campus (e.g., people sensory sensitivities; children).
  • Providing exceptional education: Duke faculty literally wrote the book on fMRI back in 2004. By creating an accessible neuroimaging center that provides easy access for researchers and students, we envision an exciting new era of fMRI-centered courses whereby students can design experiments, analyze data, and even potentially look at their own neural activity as part of an innovative and authentic, project-base coursework to complement departmental offerings.

Learn More

We invite you to learn more about the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences by visiting the following pages on our website:

  • Strategic Plan, Mission, and Goals: a recent and comprehensive blueprint for DIBS for 2018 - 2021, along with our mission and vision statements, and strategic goals.
  • Impact Report: our annual celebration of the past year's accomplishments and announcement of exciting new directions and initiatives by the Director of DIBS.
  • Leadership: our internal and external leaders who help steer DIBS and constantly evaluate current endeavors and imagine new possibilities to enrich our campus and community.