Fall 2020

Building better brains

The new Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain will focus on diagnosing, treating, and preventing neurodevelopmental disorders in kids

Renovations of the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain’s physical home, shown here in a rendering, are slated to be completed by fall 2021.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a strong start in life. About 80% of a person’s brain growth happens before age 3. And in adolescence, the brain goes through another major round of growth and change.

But disruptions such as malnutrition, medical events, or toxic stress during these sensitive periods can result in lifelong challenges such as cognitive delays or mental health issues—with huge social and economic costs.

That’s why the University of Minnesota has brought together a team of experts from such fields as neuroscience, pediatrics, psychology, psychiatry, education, and child development to form the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB). Its focus: diagnosing, treating, and preventing neurodevelopmental disorders in kids.

The institute, named in recognition of a $35 million gift from Minnesota Masonic Charities, will be located at a former hospital facility along the Mississippi River near the U’s Twin Cities campus. Additional philanthropy, including a $15 million gift to the MIDB and a $6.5 million investment in related programs from the Lynne and Andrew Redleaf Foundation, as well as generous investments by the Otto Bremer Trust, Blythe Brenden-Mann Foundation, and Drs. Gail A. Bernstein and Thomas J. Davis Trust, will help to advance the institute’s work.

“The MIDB will bring together an unmatched depth and breadth of expertise focused on healthy brain development and apply that knowledge during the periods when we can make the biggest difference,” says Redleaf Endowed Director Damien A. Fair, P.A.-C., Ph.D. 

An expert in brain imaging and cognitive neuroscience and a new MacArthur Fellow, Fair will codirect the institute with neonatologist Michael Georgieff, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and child psychology.

Find out how your gift can make a difference by contacting Jonna Schnettler of the University of Minnesota Foundation at 612-624-5588 or jschnett@umn.edu.