’Brain’ beats ’neurology’ at fundraisers

That’s why the American Academy of Neurology became the American Brain Institute
Rebranding the name game and the brain
Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

The big news out of the recent American Academy of Neurology’s 64th annual meeting in New Orleans had nothing to do with the latest wonder drug or a research breakthrough: it was the American Academy of Neurology Foundation’s decision to change its name to the American Brain Institute. The simpler—and easier to remember—moniker is part of a larger rebranding exercise by the 20-year-old organization, wrote John Mazziotta, the chair of the foundation’s board of trustees.

By adopting a broader label, the institute hopes to make itself “the world’s leader in raising money for research to cure brain diseases”—a list that includes Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, autism and epilepsy. Hence the American Brain Institute’s smart new image, location (its offices moved to Saint Paul from Minneapolis, Minn.), and advertising campaign “to educate neurologists, patients, caregivers and the public about the need to donate money to research to cure brain disease.”

One gambit to increase coffers is selling “virtual” brains in honour of donors’ friends and relatives for as little as US$5. In replacing “neurology,” a term coined in 1681 by British neuroanatomist Thomas Willis, with “brain,” the institute is slow to the semantic trend; the NeuroScience Canada Foundation folded into Brain Canada last year. Whether neurologists will demand to be known as “brainologists” next remains to be seen.