Minds Wide Open Documentary Showcases a Hopeful Future for Brain Science

Commissioned by Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute, the film shows that increased support for fundamental brain research is crucial to achieve major breakthroughs.


Trailer and more information about the film can be viewed at: www.MindsWideOpenFilm.com


Menlo Park, September 5, 2018 – The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute (TCCI®) today announced the upcoming release of “Minds Wide Open,” the first documentary commissioned and produced by TCCI® founders Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo to showcase exciting advances and tantalizing opportunities in brain science. Featuring some of the world’s most innovative scientists and doctors, the film focuses on interdisciplinary work being done to unlock the mysteries of the human brain and help people whose lives are affected by brain disease and disorders.


“We are close to a number of breakthroughs in brain science that have the potential to alleviate suffering, inspire new technologies and truly change the world,” explained TCCI’s co-founder, Tianqiao Chen. “The time to support fundamental brain research is now because we have an unparalleled opportunity to advance the science, help humanity and shape the future.”


The Chens have committed US $1 billion to advance fundamental brain research and passionately believe that even more support is needed to achieve significant breakthroughs in the field. To make the case, “Minds Wide Open” features prominent scientists from UC Berkeley, Caltech, Harvard, Fudan University-affiliated Huashan Hospital, Oxford and Stanford. These 12 experts present compelling advances in brain research, psychiatry, biology, robotics and artificial intelligence – and demonstrate how they can help patients. Viewers will learn from, among others:


  • Richard Andersen of Caltech, who leads a team that has developed technology that gives quadriplegics the ability to control robotic limbs with their thoughts alone.
  • Michael Greenberg of Harvard, who describes the progress his team has made understanding Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic brain disorder that affects young girls.
  • Sergiu Pasca of Stanford, who developed technology to convert skin cells into three-dimensional, living brain tissue in a dish, which enables his lab as well as many other groups around the world to study the underlying causes and possible treatments for brain disorders using a patient’s own brain cells.
  • And individuals who have endured depression, Rett syndrome, seizures, eczema and other brain disorders but who are benefitting from the breakthroughs described above.


“The brain is such a complex organ,” said David Anderson, Director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech, which the Chens endowed in 2016. “Some scientists approach it as an electronic instrument while others approach the brain from the standpoint of its chemistry. These are all valid perspectives and [this] just reinforces why an interdisciplinary approach to brain research is critical if we are to make real progress.” (A full list of the scientists covered in the film is attached.)


“By making films like this, we want to draw attention to the incredible work being done in the field of brain science,” said Chrissy Luo, TCCI® co-founder. The film also emphasizes the need to inspire and support the next generation of interdisciplinary brain researchers, she added: “Our hope is to encourage young scientists to go into this field and attract more support for them and others from policy makers, philanthropists and members of the public.”


The Chens commissioned Tim May, an award-winning producer who started his career at the BBC to lead production of the film with MerchantCantos, a leading production company in the United Kingdom. The original soundtrack, composed by Sion Trefor, is brought to life by acclaimed singer-songwriter Charlotte Church.


“Minds Wide Open” aired on the Discovery Channel in the U.S. and China in September. The film now available on Apple iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play. In China, viewers can watch it on the IQIYI video platform. All proceeds from the sale or rental of the film on these platforms will be donated to patient causes highlighted in the film.


About the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute:


The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute (TCCI®) was founded in 2016 by Tianqiao Chen and his wife Chrissy Luo, the founders of Shanda Group, who committed US $1 billion to help advance fundamental brain research. With a US $115 million donation, TCCI® created the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech later that year. The couple has committed CNY 500 million to support TCCI’s work in China. In 2017, they created a strategic partnership with the Zhou Liangfu Medical Development Foundation and Huashan Hospital in Shanghai. In 2018, Shanghai Mental Health Center joined the partnership. Follow TCCI® news at www.ChenInstitute.org, on LinkedIn, or via Twitter @ChenInstitute.


Jason Reindorp
Head of Global Communications
E. Jason.Reindorp@cheninstitute.org
M.+1 (206) 225-1570


NOTE TO EDITOR: The following is a summary of the scientists, patients and topics covered in the film:



Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology; Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience Leadership Chair; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Director, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience.

Caltech The importance of fundamental brain research.

Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, D.H. Chen Professor

Stanford University How optogenetics is helping scientists understand the role of specific neurons in the brain.

Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Stanford University Next-gen transcranial magnetic stimulation, rapid-acting neuromodulation therapy for treatment-resistant depression

Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Katharine Dexter McCormick and Stanley McCormick Memorial Professor in the School of Medicine.

Stanford University


Exciting new ways to understand and treat mental disorders. The importance of young scientists.

Director, Department of Neurosurgery; Vice Chairman of Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute (Shanghai).

Huashan Hospital


The importance of neurosurgical and clinical treatment/research.

Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School; Co-Director, Harvard Brain Science Initiative, Harvard University

Harvard Medical School and

Harvard University

Understanding the mechanisms that control the development of the brain. (Rett Syndrome patient story: Chelsea Coenraads, with her mother Monica)

Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology

University of California, Berkeley The critical role of young scientists in the field.

Associate Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology


University of California, Berkeley The study of the molecular mechanisms underlying itch, touch and pain. (Eczema patient story: Lisa Choy)

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


Stanford University


How studying living brain tissue, which has been derived in the lab from patients, can lead to better understanding of diseases such as autism and epilepsy. (Patient story: Violet Walters, with her mother Julie)

Principal of Jesus College, Oxford and Professorial Research Fellow in Computing Science, University of Oxford

 University of Oxford Next generation artificial Intelligence

President, Caltech

Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair

Professor of Physics

Caltech The impact of technology on the field and the urgency with which we need to act.

James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience; T&C Chen Brain-Machine Interface Center Leadership Chair; Director, T&C Brain-Machine Interface Center



Brain-machine interface and mind control of robotics. (Paralysis patient story: Eric Sorto)