Just as millions of home computers throughout the world are tuned into outer space, listening as combined ears to whatever they might hear that they couldn’t hear individually, Pat McGovern, the chairman of International Data Group, is providing brain-money for cooperative research on the organization and processes of the human brain.

This is a wonderful story by Dyke Hendrickson

IDG founder’s funds follow his fondness for gray matter

One resolution of most professionals in the tech space is how to make better use of their brain.

Communications mogul Pat McGovern has had synapse xt this thought since he was a post-tyke.

And he has done something about it.

Has he ever.

The McGovern family committed $350 million for the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, which is on its way to developing 18 separate labs employing 500 researchers and support staff.

McGovern, of course, is founder and chairman of International Data Group, the Framingham technology publishing, research and event management company with annual revenue of $2.5 billion.

He has overseen IDG’s launch of more than 300 magazines and newspapers in 85 countries, including Computerworld, InfoWorld, Macworld, Network World, and PC World.

Its IDC subsidiary provides market research to nearly 4,000 clients in more than 50 countries.

So the guy deserves a listen.

McGovern says understanding the brain is the first step in using it more effectively. And down the road — way down the road — such understanding could lead to effective drugs and behavior-altering stratagems as well as more efficient performances at work.

Maybe even world peace.

“We’ve always wanted to know how the brain works,” said McGovern, a 1959 biophysics graduate of MIT, “and with 100 billion neurons and trillions of connections among them, that’s been a great challenge.

“With greater tools now, we feel we can learn more about how perception is occurring, how the brain processes information and how it organizes thoughts. Progress is being made.”

One goal of the McGovern Institute’s research is to seek answers to neurological conditions in the hope of developing preclinical targets to treat such conditions as autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The center receives grants from federal sources ranging from the National Institutes of Health to the Department of Defense. Institute leaders say that in coming years they might be collaborating with private drug-discovery companies if commercialization looks feasible.

Another area of research focuses on functions of the brain, including perception, organization and memory.

“If you look at the theory of the optical illusion, you know the brain can assume things that aren’t necessarily so,” said McGovern. “Perhaps lessons can be learned in societal situations like conflict. Maybe a situation appears threatening but really isn’t. Or that at one time in man’s evolution, it was necessary to kill first so you weren’t attacked. But today, with nuclear weapons and the like, maybe we can learn methods of trust and cooperation rather can aggression.”

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