About the Vollum Institute

The Vollum Institute is home to 17 primary faculty scientists, 3 joint appointments and 120 research staff, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. It is a special place for basic research in neuroscience. Basic research is discovery-based science that aims to advance our understanding of how biological systems work. Beyond its importance of increasing our scientific knowledge, basic research can also lead to profound advances in how we treat human disease. Disease happens when normal cellular mechanisms fail — if we are able to understand how these biological mechanisms work in detail, we can apply that knowledge to intervene and treat disease. Basic research is the engine that drives the advancement of clinical care.

Basic research is the engine that drives the advancement of clinical care.

What we study

The Vollum Institute houses world renowned experts in all areas of neuroscience — from the molecular structure of single molecules that allow neurons to talk to each other, to mechanisms by which complex neural circuits mediate behavioral output, to understanding why neurons fall apart in neurodegenerative disease. Some examples of what we study are the mechanisms by which:

  • chemicals such as glutamate and dopamine mediate neuronal communication
  • synaptic connections between neurons become stronger or weaker, for example in learning and memory
  • signaling molecules function in the brain by solving their atomic structure
  • sound produces electrical signals in hearing pathways
  • proteins signal to govern cell survival or cell death
  • cells (neurons, glia and vasculature) communicate in the developing and mature brain
  • nervous system function is disrupted in diseases such as autism, epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders
  • psychiatric drugs and drugs of abuse mediate both therapeutic and harmful actions
Amit Mogha, PhD, working at his lab bench in the Vollum Institute

Independence...and connection

An independent research institute within OHSU, the Vollum maintains a close affiliation with the School of Medicine and other research centers across the university. Faculty have joint appointments in the School of Medicine, mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and collaborate closely with scientists in the Jungers Center, the Knight Cancer Institute, the Hearing Research Center, and the Departments of Neurology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry.

Funding for our research

Founded in 1987, the Vollum Institute is a privately endowed organization named for Howard and Jean Vollum, well-known philanthropists in Oregon. Research support for Vollum faculty comes not only from the National Institutes of Health and other federally sponsored programs but also from private funds such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and from the endowment created by Howard Vollum's estate. The Vollum endowment is maintained by the OHSU Foundation, which has responsibility for fiduciary and investment matters. The Vollum Institute receives no funds from the state of Oregon.