A University of Washington institute focused on the brain development of infants and children has reached a fundraising goal five months early, earning it an additional $2 million from the Bezos Family Foundation.

The Bezos foundation first awarded the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) $3 million in 2010, then gave the institute three years to raise another $3 million. If and when I-LABS hit that goal, the Bezos foundation pledged to donate another $2 million to the organization’s work.

The grant challenge was a strategic move to give I-LABS leverage and additional incentive when talking to other potential donors. It helped I-LABS raise the additional funds five months before the May 2013 deadline.

The additional support came from foundations, corporations and individual donors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Pacific Northwest Initiatives, United Way of King County, the Boeing Corporation and members of the I-LABS advisory board.

I-LABS has used the resources to develop the first-ever measures for examining the effects of early learning on the infant brain.

“We can now generate ‘movies’ of a baby’s brain in action, showing how talking and interacting socially with children actually shapes brain architecture,” Dr. Patricia Kuhl, I-LABS co-director and Bezos Foundation chair in early childhood learning, said in a statement. “By mapping brain development over time, we are advancing our understanding of how the context of relationships influences whether a child has a strong or weak foundation – and what we can do to improve educational and life outcomes.”

The focus of the research is based on the understanding that the first five years of development are more critical for learning than any other period of a child’s life.

“The early years are critical in human development, and our research agenda aims to help children overcome the ‘preparation gap’ by accelerating the translation of discovery to practice,” Dr.Andrew Meltzoff, I-LABS co-director, said in a statement.


By Valerie Bauman

Source: Bizjournals.com – http://goo.gl/CxprS