KUOW Newsroom

$50 million gift to UW to keep your brain healthy

Addiction, emotional trauma, dementia. Those are health issues affecting the majority of families — and problems that a major gift to the University of Washington aims to tackle.

The university said Thursday that philanthropists Lynn and Mike Garvey of Bellevue have donated $50 million to launch the Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions.

"The idea there is not to wait until our brains are broken or struggling with something like a dementia or Alzheimer's disease or something like that," said Dr. Jurgen Unutzer, chair of the UW’s psychiatry department.

He said the institute is setting out to change the future of mental health in the region.

"We already know today (that) keeping your body physically active, your brain active, being socially active, it actually can reduce pretty dramatically the likelihood that you'll develop dementia/Alzheimer's disease,” he said. “We need new solutions."

Researchers will look at what we can do, starting very early in life and then in midlife, “to keep our brains healthy and to prevent cognitive aging as much as possible."

Officials said the brain health institute will open a physical space on campus in the next five years.

It will offer undergrad and graduate programs, and develop treatments to mental health issues such as dementia and addiction.

Research has already started.

The Garveys have long supported science at the University of Washington, including stem cell and gastroenterology research.