As a cause, brain mapping doesn’t have a slogan as catchy as “Stand Up to Cancer.” Pro football teams aren’t donning a special color to support research.
The Hollywood contingent at Saturday’s Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics black-tie gala, led by honoree Tim Kring, thesps Melina Karakenedes and Gary Graham and producers Matthew Rhodes of Bold Films and Shawn Piller, had to make up in enthusiasm what it lacked in numbers.
The first speech of the night even included an explanation of the field, as if even those in attendance might not be sure what brain mapping is.
But by the end of the evening there was little doubt among those in attendance about the importance of the work being honored and supported and its future potential.
“You can lose an arm and get it replaced, you can lose a heart and get it replaced. You can’t lose your brain,” writer-entrepreneur-scientist Harry Kloor told Variety. He compared the current state of treatment for brain disorders with someone who has a broken computer but doesn’t know if the problem is hardware or software — and doesn’t know anything about either one of those, anyway.
“Brain mapping literally seeks to understand the brain at every level: the neurological level, the physical level and the microscopic level,” Kloor said.
The SBMT takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying the brain, bringing together biology, engineering, psychology, art and more. It works with government agencies, patient advocacy groups, private industry and others to promote the study of the brain, with an eye toward finding treatments for ALS, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and the numerous other brain maladies that afflict humanity.
The org’s founder, Dr. Babak Kateb, told the aud the SBMT would seek to launch a national campaign similar to “Stand Up to Cancer.”
Saturday’s gala at Crystal Ballroom of the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. was part of the SBMT’s World Congress, an event that rotates globally. Numerous consulates sent representatives. So this event gave Hollywood an opportunity to rub shoulders with scientists and diplomats.
Tim Kring, writer and executive producer of “Heroes” and USA Network’s current series “Dig,” was honored with the org’s Golden Axon award for his series “Touch,” which portrayed a family with an autistic child. The Golden Axon is given to “individuals outside of the medical community who inspire with good will and an enthusiastic interest in science, technology and medicine.”
“I have been lucky enough to be singled out for my work,” said Kring in his acceptance, “but it’s the handful of honors I’ve had for the work that I’ve done that promotes positive messages that I’m most honored by.”
Prof. Stephen Hawking — whose own showbiz credits include appearances as himself on “The Big Bang Theory” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” — was honored with the org’s Beacon of Courage and Dedication Award, which was presented in England several days ago. The presentation and Hawking’s gracious acceptance were shown on video.
Much of the gala was arranged by writer-scientist-entrepreneur Kloor. Kateb asked him to find a host — he coaxed “Star Trek: Voyager” actor Robert Picardo as MC — then asked Kloor to help organize the entire event. Kloor is a double Ph.D who, besides having three tech companies, is writing a screenplay for Fox and will write another for producer Matthew Rhodes of Bold Films.
Actress Melina Kanakaredes attended with husband Peter Constantinides. Kanakaredes cited the vast resources required to care for patients with neurological diseases including ALS and Alzheimer’s as a factor that drew her to this cause. “We all have someone in our lives who is affected,” Kanakaredes told Variety. “My uncle has just been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder. He will need care.”